Thomas Pitt, now working with Special Branch at their headquarters in Lisson Grove, is going to meet an informant who has information about a traitor seeking to bring down the English Government. He and another agent, Gower, find the dead body of their informant face down on the cobblestone, bleeding out from a horrendous knife wound. They follow the informant's supposed murderer to port, and then across the sea to France, but manage to send a message to their boss, Narraway, to tell him what is going on, and where they have gone to.
Narraway wires them money to keep themselves on while in France, and immediately goes to see Charlotte Pitt, who is busy taking care of their children. Meanwhile, Narraway finds that someone has been setting him up to take the fall for all that has gone wrong with Special Branch of late, and perhaps setting up thomas to take the blame as well, since he is Narraway's protege.
Narraway goes back to tell Charlotte of this new wrinkle in the proceedings. Because it is late at night, and Charlotte is still willing to receive Narraway, her maid decides to quit, thinking Charlotte is a loose woman. Charlotte, now worried about Thomas, is suddenly left to do all the chores in the house herself and must scramble for someone to help her, while at the same time having to worry about her husband, still in the South of France with West.
Narraway is certain that the author of his troubles was involved in a long ago case in Ireland, and is just now taking revenge on him for the actions he had performed while he was there. Since he is so well known, and well-loathed, among those who remember him, and since Charlotte wants to do her all to try and keep her husband out of danger, she decides to leave her children behind in the care of her new maid to go with Narraway and uncover the truth behind his abrupt sacking and who set him up to take a fall.
Meanwhile, Pitt and West must keep watch on the man they are following, and try and figure out what sort of treasonous trouble he might be fomenting with the aid of the French. But soon Pitt realizes that he and West have been purposely misled just to get them out of England. But can he get back in time to take over the department and oust the bungler given reign in Narraway's place? Can Charlotte and Narraway discover who means him ill in Ireland, and can they prevent a massive conspiracy to overturn the Monarchy and Government when they return to England? Or have the conspirators arranged matters so well, that even they will not be able to make a difference?
I usually enjoy Anne Perry's books, the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt ones especially. But for some reason, this book just didn't do it for me. I found the plot too nebulous and scattered to be interesting, and the separation of the main characters, and the two very different plots just made me annoyed every time the story switched between them. The Charlotte and Narraway story seems so much more interesting than what is happening to Thomas that I just felt annoyed when the action and narrative moved back to him.
Eventually, the two plots do come together, but so late that I never really felt invested in the story again as a whole, It wasn't a bad story idea, but the only characters in this that we really care about were Thomas and Charlotte. Narraway spends so much of his time being mysterious that I never felt that I should care about him as a character, and West remains a nonentity until much later in the story- I couldn't find myself caring much about him, either. The characters from earlier books only make very short appearances, and I just didn't find myself caring that much.
This book was, on the whole, rather a miss for me. Too much and too many new characters were shoehorned in and I just found myself not caring for anyone but Thomas and Charlotte, and they are best when they work together, not apart. I did not enjoy myself reading this novel, but if you've enjoyed Anne Perry's recent novels, you may feel differently. Not recommended, but YMMV.