It's 1933. No less than Europe, Britain, or America, Australia contends with the Left, mostly Communists but also Socialists, and a rising Right, Fascists. Rowland Sinclair, bohemian younger son of the wealthy, influential, conservative clan headed by his powerful brother, Wilfred, has tangled with New South Wales' Right before. It did not go well.
New Guard leader Eric Campbell, the man who would be Australia's Fuhrer, is currently in Britain "consorting with Sir Oswald Mosley," the leading British Fascist, making connections over cocktails in aid of bringing European Fascism to Australia. Campbell will soon be moving on to Germany to meet members of the Reichstag and, he hopes, Hitler.
The Australian way of life is not undefended. Old enemies have united to undermine Campbell's ambitions. Senator Charles Hardy, now a leading member of this unofficial Old Guard, brings Rowly a proposal. Their man in Munich, Peter Bothwell, who was to keep an eye on Campbell, has been killed. Rowly's mission is to investigate Bothwell's death and, while at it, do his best to derail Campbell. The Old Guard already has one Blanshard in place, serving as Campbell's interpreter, but he needs backup.
Hardy threatens to appeal to Wil to go if Rowly refuses. So he agrees. Making the trip by legs in famous airman Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's plane is a plus. Another is that his unconventional housemates, the poet (Jewish), the painter (Communist), and the sculptress (unpredictable), insist on coming along to watch his back. It's not your expected spy ring. Their cover, aside from false passports, is they are buying art. Lots of Dada art - at the Old Guard's expense.
In Munich the friends pursue their joint missions while growing increasingly horrified at the goose-stepping euphoria, cruel acts, and book burnings of the rising Nazi movement. Yet they meet decent Germans like the tailor Alois Richter who's pursuing contracts for Nazi uniforms against rival Hugo Boss, and brave Albert Goring, Hermann's younger brother. And two besotted women: Unity Mitford, who stakes out the Osteria Bavaria every day at eleven a.m. intent on meeting her idol Hitler; and a photographer called Eva Braun, a rather ordinary young woman who's besotted with a man she calls Mr. Wolf.
This cleverly plotted, utterly convincing story in which an amateur agent thrust into a world of spies, murderers, and despotic madmen where he can trust no one but his three mates, is the 4th in the fascinating Rowland Sinclair Mysteries.