Detective Ernest Hardcastle is in charge of all detectives in London while World War I is raging across Europe. All fit men are serving in the military, and the ones who are left behind are either ill or incompetent, at least in Hardcastle’s brusque opinion. So it’s with great annoyance that he has to undertake to solve the murder of a man found floating in the Thames.
Ronald Parker died from a shot to the head before he was stuffed in a bag and dropped, without any heavy weights attached, into the river. As is customary in these types of cases, everyone first questioned says they know of no reason for such a ghastly death. It turns out Ronald is an interesting fellow who was trying to get to Holland in spite of the fact he wasn’t physically fit for military service. His wife takes his death with questionable ease, and his mistress is quite busy with many gents of questionable character. Quite soon, we discover that some of these characters are associated with secret work as spies for the Crown, but that doesn’t prepare the reader for the murderer’s identity or the motivation for the murder.
What’s fascinating, as well, are Hardcastle’s old-fashioned sleuthing skills and dialogue, which are clever, amusing, and grumpy. The reader doesn’t really mind because Hardcastle comes across as someone who will solve the crime, no matter what he has to say or do to accomplish his job. Great historical mystery!