The murder of a civil servant sparks an investigation whose tendrils spread into the murky world of World War I espionage.
Sir Nigel Strang, permanent under-secretary in the Ministry of Munitions, was one of London’s mandarins, maintaining an office in Whitehall Street as well as a sizable domestic establishment in Dulwich. But exactly which time he spent in London and which time he spent in Dulwich is a matter of considerable interest to Divisional Detective Inspector Ernest Hardcastle, now that Whitehall Division of the Metropolitan Police has the politically delicate task of determining who shot Sir Nigel and left his body lying untidily behind his desk. Not one to concern himself too much with social protocol, Hardcastle interviews bureaucrats and cleaners with equal vigor, turning up the heat on the owners of local knocking shops where Strang may have been playing while his wife thought he was working. When the killing of the young charwoman who found Sir Nigel’s corpse reinforces Hardcastle’s theory of ministerial hanky-panky, he prods his long-suffering sergeant Charles Marriott to look for answers in Wild Street, home to the late Daisy Johnson. But a third murder, the stabbing of a German with a forged Irish passport, leads him to look harder into Strang’s professional portfolio and its import for Britain’s efforts on the Belgian front.
Irascible Hardcastle’s talent for dogged legwork and his equal contempt for his superiors and his underlings figure just as strongly here as in earlier entries (Hardcastle’s Armistice, 2005, etc.).