On the first night of the Blitz, a body is discovered in a van in the back streets of West Ham. DI John Jago is called to the scene and recognises the body as local Justice of the Peace and businessman Charles Villiers. Shortly afterwards a blast destroys the scene.
Jago quickly establishes that Villiers’ wife and adult son Edward both have possible motives, and that there was a rift between Villiers and his brother Arthur. But as he begins the investigation, Jago is annoyed when his boss tells him to help an American journalist who’s writing about public morale – even more so when he finds it’s a woman, Dorothy Appleton.
As Jago and Appleton follow leads, they realize that the dead man held many secrets, some of which reach back to World War I. Rather a lot of people wished Villiers dead – and an air raid is a good time to bury bad news.