Turning down a request from his former colleagues in Her Majesty’s service, private inquiry agent Patrick de Courvoisier accepts another case instead, then finds himself banging heads with his old mates anyway.
Charles Carruthers, whom Patrick likes and respects, isn’t entirely clear about the mission, but he does say that he wants Patrick to retrieve a painting that’s a Windsor family heirloom from its hiding place somewhere in the Esterel Massif, just west of Patrick’s current home in Cannes, and dangles comely art historian Grazia Lucca, who’s already signed on, as none-too-subtle bait. After turning him down cold, Patrick returns home to find that Carruthers has recruited unlikable Giles Huntington in his place. He’s even more chagrined to find that the private commission he’s accepted—recovering a Fragonard Madonna that’s gone missing from a Cistercian monastery on an island off the Cannes coast—seems at every opportunity to bring him up against Grazia and Huntington, who’s taken the alias “Coburn” originally assigned to Patrick and is therefore constantly mistaken for him. Not surprisingly, the Madonna, a piquant treasure on its own, turns out to be only the tip of the iceberg, and the case Patrick has taken is intertwined at every point with the case he didn’t, especially once he realizes that Grazia’s ex-lover, yacht owner Marco Fratelli, is in both cases up to his neck. There’ll be nefarious neo-Nazis, underwater derring-do, and very little surprise en route to the final curtain.
Anderson, who clearly intends Patrick (The Case of the Black Pearl, 2014) to come across as sophisticated and debonair, hasn’t bothered to make him interesting, and the villains are right out of war surplus. Nothing new here, not even the highly competent undersea action.