As the Great War rages on, a corpse dumped in the Thames ends up in the bailiwick of Divisional DI Ernest Hardcastle and his colleagues at the Cannon Row station.
Hardcastle can’t help wishing that the late Ronald Parker, shot in the head and tied up in a sack, had floated past Waterloo Pier into someone else’s jurisdiction. There are no obvious suspects or motives, and Hardcastle’s sergeant, Charles Marriott, and his men (Hardcastle’s Obsession, 2011, etc.) have plenty of other business to attend to. But things pick up with the news that Parker’s mistress, Daisy Benson, neglected to tell him that she’s been a widow for a year; that Parker himself, whose wife, Mavis, said he was about to leave for Holland to avoid conscription, had already been notified of his medical exemption from military service; and that Mavis Parker, a dayworker at the Sopwith Aviation paint shop, is quite the queen bee. Dogging the widow’s footsteps, Hardcastle’s coppers link her to Capt. Gilbert Stroud, dodgy corset salesman Lawrence Mortimer and actor Vincent Powers. In the fullness of time, Hardcastle realizes that this quiet wartime murder is politically sensitive—a realization that’s confirmed when he and his ham-handed squad are rebuked by Superintendent Patrick Quinn, who warns them off Special Branch’s patch. Nothing daunted, Hardcastle, passed over for promotion in favor of a younger and less qualified colleague, ends up earning wry congratulations from the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate: “You seem to be making a habit of charging people with murder, Inspector.”
A middling procedural that’s also a pleasingly efficient tour of 1918 London.