On the brink of WWII, journalist Verity Browne ruffles official feathers, rescues a Jewish artist from the Nazis and solves a murder.
Fresh from her successful sleuthing in the south of France (A Grave Man, 2006), leftist correspondent Verity Browne is now a full-fledged Communist, writing for the New Gazette from Vienna in the spring of 1938 when her close friend Lord Edward Corinth gets word that she may be in danger. Indeed, the Nazis seize the city and deport her. Nonplussed, Verity takes up a pet side project, helping a young Jew named Georg Dreiser escape to freedom in England. At a posh dinner party, Verity has a spirited political discussion with Winston Churchill, whom she grows to admire if not agree with. (Lord Mountbatten and a handful of other real people also appear as minor characters.) Meanwhile, Edward is reunited with a friend from his school days, the Maharaja of Batiala, known to him as Sunny, and meets Joan Miller, a beautiful film star. More consequentially, his wide-eyed nephew Frank discovers the corpse of Peter Gray, a famous painter. Gray’s death is put down to his accidentally eating too much ergot (a fungus on some grains). But his lovely niece Vera, who has her doubts, convinces Edward and Verity to probe further.
Roberts’s effortless grasp of his subject and era are matched by his pitch-perfect prose.