The sudden return of Liberty Lane’s brother Tom from India embroils them both in a delicate and dangerous case.
Tom, an employee of the East India Company, is horrified to discover that his sister earns a living as a private investigator, but he needs her skills when a friend is killed. Tom is home to give evidence at an official enquiry into the murder of wealthy merchant Alexander McPherson’s assistant, who was reportedly carrying a fortune in jewels. Tom’s mentor, Mr. Griffiths, despises McPherson, who has made a fortune exporting opium to China in exchange for tea, and has written a pamphlet exposing the evil trade. When Griffiths is found dead, a supposed suicide, Tom is devastated, and Liberty immediately suspects that all is not what it seems. Although Griffiths’ pamphlet has been stolen from the publishers, the original manuscript still exists, and Liberty learns a great deal from reading it. She becomes convinced that Griffiths’ death is linked to an experience he had in India, where he was posted to a small but wealthy princedom along with a merchant and a soldier. The merchant was McPherson, but the soldier’s identity is something Liberty must discover if she is to solve a case that becomes more complicated with each passing day.
Liberty’s fifth case (When the Devil Drives, 2011, etc.) nicely balances the exotic history of the East India Company, whose private army rules India for British gain, with a mystery that offers a wide range of possible evildoers.