A nun solves a mysterious death, but not to her satisfaction.
The Reverend Mother has gone to the Queen’s Old Castle department store in Cork to pick up flood-damaged merchandise for her poor students. Despite his miserly reputation, Joseph Fitzwilliam, the store's owner, has offered the Reverend Mother anything she needs for no charge. Reverend Mother is being helped by Brian Maloney, a shop apprentice who was once a pupil at her convent school, when Joseph topples over the railing outside his second-floor office and plunges to his death. Agnes Fitzwilliam, Joseph’s wife, accuses Brian of murder. Luckily, Reverend Mother’s dear friend police surgeon Dr. Scher happens to be there and quiets the hysterical woman. The investigating officer, Inspector Patrick Cashman, is another former student with whom Reverend Mother has worked on several other murder investigations (Death of a Novice, 2018, etc.). Evidently one of the gas canisters brought back from the war by Maj. James Fitzwilliam, the shop owner's son, which was being used to fumigate the damaged goods after the flood, has been sent up to Joseph’s small, windowless office by means of the change carriers that run on wires from each department, and the gas overcame him, causing his plunge to the floor—a chancy but ultimately effective means of murder. In addition to his wife, Joseph’s daughters, Monica and Kitty, work at the store, and his younger son, Robert, is the floor manager. They all come under suspicion when the police learn that he’d just changed his will,leaving almost everything to James (who wasn’t in the store at the time), a pittance to his daughters and wife, and nothing to Robert. Reverend Mother uses her extensive Cork connections to gather information on the family and the browbeaten workers, any of whom may have had a motive. After much thought the Reverend Mother comes to a shocking conclusion—but can she get the evidence to prove her theory?
The 1920s ambience enriches one of the best entries in Harrison’s franchise.