Thomas Pitt is now the Commander of Special Branch, part of Britain's intelligence forces. His friend and former boss, Victor Narraway, is involuntarily retired, and not sure what to do with himself, now that for the first time in his adult life he has no duties and no responsibilities.
As Commander Pitt of Special Branch, Thomas and Charlotte are now attending routinely the kinds of social events that Charlotte grew up with. At one of those events, Charlotte witnesses the Portuguese Ambassador's daughter, Angeles Castelbranco, just sixteen years old, fleeing in terror from the taunting but not obviously threatening behavior of Neville Forbush, the son of a wealthy and well-connected man. In her terror, Angeles stumbles and falls against, and out, a window, to her death.
Victor Narraway, also making the social rounds in his unwanted retirement, happens to be chatting with an acquaintance, a merchant banker named Quixwood, when a police officer arrives with shocking and tragic news. Catherine Quixwood, his wife, has apparently been attacked and killed while home alone for the evening, after letting the servants retire for the night.
Narraway agrees to assist in the investigation of Catherine's death, while Pitt responds to the desperate plea of the Portuguese ambassador, who reports that Neville had raped Angeles, explaining her fear of him.
As they each pursue their separate investigations, and share information, the two cases prove to be linked--to each other, and to the impending trial of Dr. Jameson, who nearly started a war with the Boers by an ill-conceived raid into their territory in South Africa.
This is a very solid story. Perry has gotten through the awkward period when she didn't quite know what to do with Thomas, and solved the problem of promoting him to a level where Charlotte's social connections are normal and accessible again. In this book she makes them, and their friend Narraway, face some terrifying realities of life for women in late Victorian England. The poignancy of this is increased by the fact that Jemima Pitt is now fourteen, starting to mature physically and socially, still a child but starting to practice some of the social skills, and feel the unsettling emotions, of a teenager not quite old enough to emerge into society. Perry does an excellent job portraying the conflicted feelings, fears, and anger of Thomas, Charlotte, their daughter, and Narraway.
I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.