A 1910 honeymoon on an exotic island is rudely interrupted by multiple murders.
Civil War veteran, retired Georgia sheriff, and puzzle solver extraordinaire John Le Brun and his wife, Lordis, now live in New York City, the base for Le Brun’s detective agency. After wrapping up a counterfeiting case, the pair heads to Brunswick, Georgia, where they board the Pindy, a beat-up refrigerated ship heading for St. Lucia, a tropical island whose main crops are bananas and sugar cane. The only other passengers are Wall Street financier Paul Van Fleet and his wife, Minerva. Le Brun and Van Fleet soon realize they’re getting a subsidized vacation as an inducement to encourage wealthy investors to develop the island for tourism. Their tour guide is Carlisle Thiery, a Cambridge-educated solicitor who seems to be doing well for himself despite being part black in a society whose social ladder is built on whiteness. When the entire family of planter Peter Palmer is found dead in their partially burned plantation home, their neighbor Nigel Harvey offers to pay Le Brun to investigate despite his rocky relationship with Palmer, who Harvey thinks treated his workers too well. Although workers on the island are no longer physically in chains, their woeful economic status keeps them in a terrible position. Despite his Southern background, Le Brun sympathizes with Thiery and despises the short-sightedness of the white planters. Not only is Le Brun acquainted with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but many of his friends consider him to be as talented as Sherlock Holmes. After determining that the fire was set in an attempt to cover up the murder of the whole family, Le Brun and Lordis vow to do whatever they can to stop a coldblooded killer.
The mystery poses little challenge for Le Brun (The Manhattan Island Clubs, 2003, etc.) or the reader. But armchair travelers will enjoy the history and lyrical descriptions of St. Lucia, which has become the tourist paradise the planters were hoping for.