A SPIDER IN THE CUP:
A Joe Sandilands Investigation
By Barbara Cleverly
Soho, August 2013 ($26.95)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
London, 1933. As the sun rises over the city, a motley group of dowsers searching for treasure in the mudflats of the Thames find a precious, ancient coin. That's the good news. The bad news is, the coin is in the mouth of a recently deceased young woman, deliberately buried under a foot of river muck. The leader of the group, a staunch, calm woman who'd seen death many times as a nurse during the Great War, makes a quick assessment of the crime scene. A colonel who had been one of her patients rushes off to notify the authorities while the professor examines the coin and pronounces it a treasure indeed.
Nearby, Assistant Police Commissioner Joe Sandilands is on his way to an urgent meeting. The sergeant who is driving him perks up when they hear the police siren rushing to the riverbank, but his boss says they have to leave it to the local bobbies. They have bigger fish to fry, London is hosting the World Economic Conference, and a number of high-ranking officials from all over the globe are gathered in the city. These men are prime targets for fanatics and others with an agenda, and security needs to be at the highest level. Sandilands is assigned to protect Cornelius Kingstone, an American senator from Tennessee with a direct line to President Roosevelt's ear. Sandilands assumes it will be an easy task, but his boss warns him the senator has a few blots on his copybook, has been known to wander, and will require Joe's firm hand and possibly the skills he learned in the military, not to mention Joe's skills with the ladies.
Complicating matters, the senator's paramour, a Russian prima ballerina, is in London, a woman with an appetite for powerful men. Joe is instructed to "manage" their relationship, seeing that it doesn't interfere with the senator's primary obligations to the conference.
Joe is impressed with the senator, who, like him, was an officer in the Great War, with the survival skills and strength of a warrior. He is unable to size up Kingstone's lover, who is making herself scarce, but he is astounded and not best pleased to find out the senator's bodyguard is someone from his own past.
Sandilands believes there is more going on in his city than just a lot of politicians spouting hot air, and he is correct. The very fate of the world may ride on the actions of a few of those men, and Kingstone is in the middle of it. The trouble is, he doesn't know who those men are, and who he can really trust.
This is another fine book in the Joe Sandilands Investigations series. The plot is full of twists, red herrings, puzzles, and clever use of historical events that make the reader think "what if..."
The colorful, exciting, uncertain life of London between the two wars is shown in vivid detail. Highly rcommended.
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