May 1915. With thousands of Britons fighting in the trenches, a severely depleted police force remains behind to keep the Home Front safe. Scotland Yard is already overstretched when the sinking of the Lusitania sparks an unprecedented wave of anti-German riots and arson attacks. Among the victims is the immigrant tailor Jacob Stein, found dead in his burnt-out shop.
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Inspector Marmion and Sergeant Keedy are assigned to the case when the body of a young conscientious objector is found bludgeoned to death. Public sympathy is lukewarm for conscientious objectors with some people even claiming that a "conchie" deserves to die if he won't fight for his King and Country. As the detectives identify one suspect, others pop up in the most unexpected places. Everyone speaks well of Ablatt but is he really the saint they describe?
As thousands of Brits are fighting on the Front Line, a new breed of women emerges to hold the Home Front together. Fiercely independent and fiery-spirited, these women are a raucous group of munition workers. One group of "canaries", so-called because of their chemically-stained yellow faces, decide to celebrate leader Florrie Duncan’s birthday, but their frolics are soon cut short when all but one are killed in a startling explosion. With five times the victims there are five times the possible motivations for the murderer, and Marmion and Keedy certainly uncover some surprising clues.
In June 1916 a young woman is found dead in a cinema. Harvey Marmion and Joe Keedy are assigned the task of finding the killer who fled in the dark. Before long two more victims, of striking similarity but differing backgrounds, are found dead around the city. Meanwhile, miles from home, Marmion's son, Paul, prepares for life on the front line as he marches towards the Battle of the Somme.
London, Autumn 1916. When he slips out of a house in the early hours, Simon Wilder is too preoccupied to realise that he is being stalked. As he walks along the street, lights begin to dim as a warning that there's another Zeppelin attack. British aeroplanes attack the Zeppelin. Suddenly, it bursts into flame and lights up the whole sky. The crowds cheer as the great fireball drops slowly down and crashes in a field but the one person unable to watch is Simon Wilder.