Charlie Howard witnesses a murder, but since there's no body, nobody believes him.
Suave British mystery writer Charlie usually indulges his burgling sideline, he explains in expansive first-person narration, only when he's enticed, but his current challenge is unique. Shady Freddy Farmer, whose disreputable brother Nathan is well-known to Charlie, says he's working for the British embassy in Berlin and blackmails Charlie into recovering an unnamed but valuable item that's been stolen. Charlie is tasked with breaking into the lodging of each of the four suspects in search of said missing item. He'll know it when he sees it, Freddy assures him. Dubious but intrigued, Charlie enlists his bantering agent, Victoria, as a reluctant accomplice and sets to work. Indeed, at the second place he breaks into, he knows immediately that he's hit pay dirt, probably since it's a folder marked "Top Secret." All goes well until it doesn't. First, two men with Russian accents and loaded guns steal the file. And, at one of the apartments, Charlie sees a woman being strangled to death but arrives too late to save (or find) her. Given Charlie's puckish personality, it's not surprising that everyone is skeptical at best. Charlie and Victoria are forced to team up with Freddy to steal back the invaluable file. They ultimately land smack in the middle of a delicate diplomatic situation, which naturally leads back to that strangled woman.
Charlie's fifth romp (The Good Thief's Guide To Venice, 2011, etc.) rests much on the charm of its hero, which can at times wear thin.