Confusion reigns as Fenian bombs explode in London.
Because his exotic Italian looks and elegant attire usually keep him from being picked out as a policeman, Detective Inspector Ernest Best is selected to follow probable Fenian troublemakers. A trip to France following Fenians acquaints him with a genial American who’s attempting to help the French fight the phylloxera outbreak, which is decimating the vines, by selling them healthy root stock. On the return trip, the American is stabbed in his railroad carriage, involving Best in a murder case that’s solved with disconcerting ease. In the meantime, however, Best has grown intrigued by a melancholy letter purportedly placed in the Daily News by a desperate young woman. He suspects fraud and discovers blackmail. Investigating the disappearance of a wealthy young man whose sister claims he answered the ad, he wonders if this may turn out to be yet another murder. His taskmasters at the yard, seeing Fenians behind every crime, keep him busy searching for the perpetrators of the latest outrage. Some wise hints from his artist wife help him solve the mysterious disappearance, but the Fenian outrages are too much for even the cleverest of detectives.
The lack of a satisfying climax leaves the Author’s Note the most interesting part of this incoherent Victorian procedural.