Divisional DI Ernest Hardcastle (Hardcastle’s Frustration, 2012, etc.) ushers in 1916 with whiskey, brown ale and murder.
No sooner does the Hardcastle family finish its New Year’s Eve toast than a knock at the door brings a sergeant from the Kennington Road police station with an urgent summons. A jeweler’s in Vauxhall Bridge Road has been robbed and its owner, Reuben Gosling, killed. Hardcastle wakes neighbor Sidney Partridge, who reports seeing a car with “one of those canvas things” and “them white tyres.” The detective soon discovers that a Haxe-Doulton convertible with whitewall tires went missing the night of Gosling’s murder. Its owner, Sinclair Villiers, is a posh gent with a snooty butler named Henwood. Servant and master alibi each other nicely. But Villiers’s son, Haydn, has a bad habit of borrowing dad’s car without notice. Although Villiers Jr. is supposed to be fighting in France, Villiers Sr.’s estranged wife, Hannah, admits that her son is home. What she doesn’t say, but what a bit of tailing reveals, is that he’s in London to bed his colonel’s wife. Worse than cuckolding his commander, young Capt. Villiers seems also to be receiving Morse-code messages from France about British troop movements, messages to be bartered to the Turks as part of a Zionist plot to establish a homeland in Palestine. There aren’t too many dots between the jeweler’s death and the Jewish state, and Hardcastle connects them with more speed than logic.
Perhaps the glossary Ison gives to explain terms like “boozer” and “nick” should have included an entry for “mishegas.”