Lawton’s sixth installment of Frederick Troy’s adventures not only goes back in time from previous entries (A Little White Death, 2006, etc.) but also expands its scope from Frederick alone to the equally active lives of his father and brother.
In Vienna in the late 1930s, as the violence of the Nazi Party is growing more virulent, the story is covered by Rod Troy, a reporter for The Sunday Post, a newspaper owned by his eminent father, Alexei. Decades ago, Alex also spent years in Vienna, some of them, Rod learns, as a psychiatric patient of the energetic Sigmund Freud. In London, Alex has encounters of his own with Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan et al., concerning the threat of Hitler and the looming war. Alex, himself a Russian émigré, writes a bristling editorial about Russia for the Post as his son Frederick, Rod’s brother, continues his ascent to Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad. On the eve of Kristallnacht, Rod contemplates ensuring the safety of his family by fleeing Vienna. In London, Alex continues to have Churchill’s ear as the government prepares to incarcerate recent immigrants deemed suspicious—a program to be carried out by Frederick and his colleagues. In the midst of this turmoil, as the bombing of London begins, Frederick probes the hit-and-run death of a rabbi that seems an ordinary crime until another rabbi is killed in his own synagogue.
History and politics again add depth and texture to Lawton’s impressively complex thriller.