DI Sonny Russell isn’t the usual detective. He’s a vegetarian, enjoys classical music and whistles the hits of the 1950s. He lives near the sea in a converted railway carriage with his Jack Russell, Aggie.
In a violent storm a wooden crate, empty apart from a scrap of German newspaper, washes up on the beach. It sets Russell and his DC, Johnny Weeks, on the trail of valuable artefacts that were plundered by the Nazis at the end of WW2. They discover that an elusive Frenchman, Albert Salle, has been trying to sell the valuables to various local antique dealers, including a stunning redhead, Isobel Bailey who has caught Russell’s eye.
A pair of Hastings fishermen, who become involved with the Frenchman and his henchman Big Paul, suffer nasty fates. One dies and his body is dragged up by a dredger in the channel at Compass Point. His companion is injured, trying to escape and ends up in hospital. Two of their colleagues continue attempting to fence the stolen goods, which have been hidden in one of the iconic net huts at the Hastings fishermen’s beach. Isobel’s friend, Duncan Fountain’s shop is ransacked, then she is taken, held hostage and roughed up.
Two boy scouts overhear the fishermen plotting in a hulk, high on the riverbank, and walk through the night to tell Sonny Russell what they heard. Unfortunately he has gone to London for the evening but they are able to wake DS Weeks and tell him. In the morning he reports to his superiors but the story is disbelieved. So, along with a WPC, Nettie Sharpe, he pursues the fishermen on his own.
Meanwhile, in London, Russell has spent a pleasant evening with an old friend from his army days. In the morning, the city is cloaked in a thick fog, severely reducing visibility. He steps off the pavement, is hit by a motorcycle and ends up in hospital with suspected concussion.
That evening a meeting is planned at Compass Point where Isobel is to be handed over in exchange for the stolen goods. Weeks was meant to be there but the bumbling DI ‘Bonnie’ Parker insists he accompany him on a pointless journey. So, Nettie catches the train to Compass Point, with Russell’s terrier and waits to see what is going to happen.
As darkness falls Salle arrives in his Citröed DS with a bedraggled Isobel. At the last moment Russell arrives back from London. There is a stand-off between him and Salle. Aggie slips her collar, the Frenchman is distracted, a gun goes off and Isobel is shot and injured. Weeks finally turns up and Salle is overpowered and arrested
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Chris O’Donoghue started his working life as a potter, progressed to garden designer – winning three medals for his gardens at the Chelsea Flower show – and is now a successful author. He lives near the sea and writes in a railway carriage studio.
Awards: Two Silver Gilt and and one Silver medal for his gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.