A 19th-century sea voyage to Egypt is the setting for murder.
His brother asks retired sleuth Charles Lenox, M.P., to undertake a clandestine mission for the British government. Charles’ wife is pregnant, but he cannot refuse the request. England’s relationship with France is on dangerous ground, and the deaths of several British spies have only increased tensions. So Charles sails aboard the Lucy along with his brother’s son Teddy, who’s making his first voyage as a midshipman. In this time of peace, warships often carry out what the crew think of as make-work duties. But the ship’s routine is scuttled when the ship’s second lieutenant is found brutally murdered. Captain Martin, aware of Lenox’s reputation, asks him to find the killer. Given the limited number of suspects, the task would seem easy, but Lenox finds it daunting. No sooner has he narrowed down the list to the ship’s officers than Captain Martin is murdered and Lenox is fortunate to escape with his own life. The ship continues to Egypt, where Charles must accomplish his task as an undercover agent and put paid to the murder investigation before he can return to his pregnant wife.
A welcome change of scene for Finch’s clever protagonist (A Stranger in Mayfair, 2010, etc.). The descriptions of life aboard a ship in 1873 are especially entertaining.