Among the 2,000 passengers boarding the Cunard line’s Caronia for its 1908 voyage from New York to Liverpool are the Singletons, who hope to marry their daughter Isadora off to a member of the British aristocracy; the very rich Openshaws, a frank-speaking Yorkshire couple; Ramsey Leach, a timid undertaker, and an equally shy spinster, Pamela Clyne; Theo Wright, a cyclist hoping to win the Bordeaux-to-Paris race, and his martinet coach; Stanley Chase, an antiques dealer; and Crippen-inspired pharmacist John James Heritage and his mistress, Carrie Peterson, who are in the custody of two Scotland Yard officers charged with returning them to England to stand trial for the poisoning of Heritage’s wife. Also setting sail are ship’s detectives George Porter Dillman and gorgeous Genevieve Masefield (Murder on the Minnesota, 2002, etc.). George warms up by rousting a pair of pickpockets and Genevieve by sweetly discouraging several aspiring swains. But it will take their combined skills to apprehend the murderer of one of the Yard men, foil a smuggling operation, and determine whether Heritage and his sweetie are innocent.
Experienced transatlantic travelers will find less nautical opulence than in Allen’s earlier crossings. As one might expect from a sea story, though, there’s a veritable shoal of red herrings.