An advertising man, whose Mediterranean cruise ends with him turned into a fool and a smuggler, finds still bigger problems awaiting him at home.
David Ansell’s marriage has never been happy, and his firm hasn’t paid for his shrewish wife, Eileen, to accompany him when they book his passage on MV Helios so that he can work up a new ad campaign for the Rex Cruising Company. So he’s a perfect target for Melanie Caine, an upscale tart who entices him to her cabin, makes him forget both his marriage vows and his good judgment, and then asks him to carry home Georgie, a stuffed Barbary ape she can’t fit into her luggage. When Ansell returns home, Eileen’s gossipy friend Barbara Morley instantly spots the toy, sees a few telltale blonde hairs it’s picked up, smells the perfume and tips a wink to Eileen. The next day, Ansell gets a frantic call from Melanie demanding that he return the ape to her, but it’s too late, says Eileen triumphantly: She’s already burned Georgie out of jealousy and spite. Even worse, Melanie soon meets a similar fate at the hands of her criminal masters, who, skeptical of her claim that Georgie’s been burned, decide to break into Ansell’s house to look for him and find only Eileen instead. In a darker mood, Ashford (Justice Deferred, 2012, etc.) would turn their unauthorized visit into the opening move in an all-out squeeze play against Ansell. Instead, he focuses on the members of the county CID—DI Jim Glover and DS Josh Frick, who are convinced Ansell killed his wife, and DC Belinda Draper, who finds herself caught in the middle between her superiors and their prey.
Accomplished, routine work disappointing only due to the fact that the most interesting development, Draper’s unlikely romance with Ansell, gets such short shrift.