A Spider in the Cup

Written by Barbara Cleverly
Review by Tony Hays

Barbara Cleverly’s latest Joe Sandilands mystery is an international affair. In 1933 London, a woman’s body is unearthed on the banks of Thames with two unusual features. One of her toes is missing, and she has a valuable gold coin in her mouth. Scotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner Joe Sandilands catches the case, but he also has his hands full babysitting U.S. Senator Cornelius Kingstone, a Franklin Roosevelt confidante, in London for an international economic conference – two totally different assignments, until Sandilands discovers a link between the body and Kingstone.

Set amidst the tension and uncertainty of pre-World War II London, Cleverly displays her encyclopedic knowledge of the London of that era, and that provides one of the few weaknesses in the book. There’s an assumption that the reader will be as well-versed in that time period as the author, causing a bit of confusion at times. But the descriptions are almost lyrical as Cleverly weaves her plot in and out of the streets of London, tying them together in a conclusion that is both surprising and satisfying.

If you are a Sandilands fan, you’ll find this adventure propels him into a mystery unlike his earlier cases, and he rises to the challenge very well.