Riley Fitzhugh is temporarily made officer in charge of the naval guard on board the SS Carlota, a merchant ship assigned to deliver bombs and aviation fuel to the Sebou River during Operation Torch. The Atlantic crossing was supposed to be in convoy, but Carlota breaks down after surviving a U-boat attack and is forced to limp along alone.
Riley Fitzhugh is recruited by the OSS for temporary duty as a naval spy in Morocco. Riley’s assignment is to kidnap a French river pilot and extract him from Casablanca. Riley meets an old flame from his days in Hollywood, and these two have some surprises waiting for them.
The eve of World War II. A Hollywood producer’s murdered wife. Her husband’s guilty memory of a shipboard romance. A stolen painting signed “Picasso.” French gangsters. A beautiful courtesan. A shoot-out in a brasserie. All these and more confront Private Detective Riley Fitzhugh as he travels from Hollywood to the Riviera, Paris, and London in search of his client’s vanished dream girl and some answers.
This novel is the latest in the series featuring Riley Fitzhugh. With the advent of the Second World War Fitzhugh leaves his private detective business in Los Angeles and joins the Navy. He goes through officer training and gets assigned to the PC 475, an anti U-boat vessel. The 475 is nicknamed The Nameless by her crew, because patrol craft were only given numbers. The ship patrols the Gulf of Mexico during the early days of the war. Fitzhugh and the Nameless uncover and destroy German supply station in northern Cuba and track the crew of a damaged U boat. Along the way Fitzhugh has a few adventures in Havana, where he meets both Ernest Hemingway and his glamorous wife, Martha Gellhorn.
Hollywood in the Thirties: Nazi saboteurs, gangsters running gambling ships, British spies and diplomats, FBI agents, starlets looking for the big break, cheap hustlers on the fringes of the law, local cops – some are friends and some are adversaries, but all are involved somehow with Riley Fitzhugh, a private eye who’s wondering whether the death of an English aristocrat really was an accident.