A discredited detective must solve a baffling homefront murder in 1914 to reclaim his reputation.
When war is declared, England explodes in a fever of nationalistic fervor. Sensitive Felix Simpkins, who’s perhaps too close to his domineering mother, struggles with his aversion to enlistment and his shame that the motivation for his reluctance might be cowardice. Morris weaves Felix’s anxiety together with that of DI Silas Quinn, who’s returning to Scotland Yard after a harrowing period in an asylum (The Red Hand of Fury, 2018). His Special Crimes Division is disbanded, and he’s reassigned as a detective hunting for German spies. Colleagues at the Yard sneer openly and malign him behind his back. Meanwhile, in order to feel less vulnerable, Felix purchases a gun. Pastor Clement Cardew delivers impassioned sermons that stir up the jingoism of his congregation. All this passion has caused a rift with his wife, Esme, because it means that their son, Adam, will be going off to war. Felix attends Cardew’s popular speeches because of his long-standing infatuation with Cardew’s daughter, Eve. When Eve sends him a loving letter, they arrange to meet. She brazenly gives him a white feather, the symbol of cowardice in this era of war. Shortly after this, a murdered body is discovered with a single white feather nearby, and the case falls to Quinn. A soldier’s attempted shooting of one of Quinn’s men further complicates the investigation, and a second murder ramps up public anxiety. Quinn is driven to solve the murders as much in order to salvage his own reputation as to fulfill his duty.
Morris builds tension slowly but effectively in this character-driven fifth franchise installment.