While the rest of the world breathlessly waits for Hitler to start World War II, a fugitive member of the NYPD finds danger and intrigue on the other side of the world.
Frederick Freiman stole Pandora, his Uncle Alf’s boat, and sailed away from New York for reasons he can’t tell anyone. Wandering the globe eventually brings him to the Galápagos Islands, where he’s greeted, minutes after making landfall, by the corpse of Baroness Ilsa von Arndt, an ax buried in her head. In life, the baroness was a dominatrix whose latest love slaves, Ernst Lang and dentist Wilhelm Ritter, naturally assume that the man standing over her body killed her. Not so, purrs Sgt. Lopez, the chief of police, when they turn Fred over to him. Of course he wasn’t responsible for a murder that clearly occurred the previous night, while he was still at sea. But he’ll arrest Fred and bind him over for trial if the newcomer, who knows German, doesn’t help in his investigation—help, as in question Ilsa’s largely German acquaintances, probe their secrets, and come up with the killer. The obvious suspects—mysterious German geologist Martin Becker, Norwegian fisherman Piers Hanson, party-loving Gregor Herzog and his wife and brothers—don’t tell the stranger to take a hike, but they’re not very helpful either, and Fred’s discoveries are mostly limited to the realization that in addition to not liking Sgt. Lopez, he doesn’t trust him either.
Schaill, who’s spun compelling stories of maritime intrigue (Sea Glow, 1998, etc.), seems out past his depth in a 1938 Galápagos peopled with suspects as muffled as they are menacing. Here’s hoping he grows into his land legs in the strongly implied series.