A stop in a tavern for a simple nightcap leads a war worker into unexpected complexities.
On a frigid December night in 1943, Louise Pearlie and her companion, Joe Prager, consider themselves lucky to find a watering hole that’s open for business in flu-ridden Washington. But the Baron Steuben Inn stops being such a welcome refuge from the cold when the barkeep finds a 2-day-old corpse tucked under the bar. During the police investigation, Louise and Joe are anxious about their possible exposure. She secretly works in the disinformation department of the OSS; he’s a Czech national posing as a teacher of Slavic languages but involved in smuggling Jewish refugees from Europe. Louise (Louise’s Chance, 2016, etc.) has still another reason for discretion: if her romance with Joe becomes public, she might lose her top-secret clearance and even her job. No one else at the inn—a playboy and his married mistress, a bus driver and a librarian who are regular patrons, and Al Becker, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen who played chess with the late Floyd Stinson—is any happier about the police interrogation. Becker is a particularly promising suspect, although he claims not to have known that Stinson was a custodian at the nearby German Embassy, a vast mansion now closed up and protected by Swiss guards. It looks even worse when he confesses to Louise that he used to work at the embassy and Louise’s boss reveals that Stinson was an OSS operative recruited to keep an eye on the mansion and the hidden fortune it was rumored to contain. A second death, a family of Nazi sympathizers, and an invitingly unlocked door lure Louise into a dangerous enterprise and an encounter from which there seems no escape.
Even though the quietly courageous heroine acts a little more impulsively than usual, her sixth adventure is a worthy addition to the franchise.