Having spent 1907 safeguarding Cunard liners (Murder on the Lusitania, 1999; Murder on the Mauretania, 2000), George Porter Dillman and his gal pal Genevieve Masefield temporarily switch allegiances in 1908 to the Great Northern Steamship Company, whose steamship Minnesota, en route from Seattle to China and Japan, may be hiding a band of arms smugglers. Gorgeous Genevieve quickly attracts the amorous attention of two persistent swains, while hypervigilant George notices he is being tailed from the dining hall to his cabin and back again. The purser fingers frequent traveler Rance Gilpatrick as the most likely suspect, but when a much-disliked missionary is garroted the second night out, the list of possible assassins expands to include the man he fought with over stateroom accommodations, a Japanese couple whose religion he ridiculed, and most of the first-class passengers forced to share a meal with him. As the plot thickens, George unearths a catalogue of guns, uncovers a diplomat who is sailing incognito, and chastely flirts with a Washington socialite while Genevieve befriends Gilpatrick’s wife, sidesteps her swains, and frets over George’s mild flirtation. Eventually, four gunrunners and one murderer are rounded up, and George and Genevieve rendezvous on the promenade deck for some serious romancing.
The gowns are lovely, the meals sound tasty, and the descriptions of the shipboard “Opium Den” and the “Ladies’ Boudoir” so smack of authenticity that it would be churlish to mention that the voyage outlasts the plot.