Attorney Eric Ward is facing the finalization of his divorce decree. He and his wife Ann are calling it quits, both plagued by indiscretions and a loss of love. He refuses any part of her sizeable estate or resources; he wants to keep what’s his, including a flat in Newcastle.
Ann still feels badly that he won’t accept any kind of financial settlement, so she and her current legal advisor, who may also be her lover and Eric’s rival, arrange for a large contract to fall Eric’s way. It’s from a commercial firm with insurance and shipping interests. What Ann doesn’t know, but her legal advisor does, is that the contract is likely to land Eric in trouble.
The firm asks him to find out why a ship that docked in Newcastle has been “arrested” – what in the U.S. would be called “impounded.” Supposedly a crew member has been caught smuggling drugs, but the ship and the rest of the crew don’t seem involved. So Eric investigates, puts out feelers through his information sources, talks with the local police, and gradually learns that nothing is what it seems to be.
The investigation takes him into the murky world of piracy, “Phantom” shipping, organized crime on a local and continental basis, and a client who may be up to his eyeballs in trouble. And it also takes him to a potential new romantic interest, who may be as involved as everyone else.
The Phantom Murder by Roy Lewis is the twelfth novel in the Eric Ward mystery series by British author Roy Lewis. Originally published as Phantom in 2002, it’s been republished this year as part of reintroducing the series (and author).
Lewis is the author of some 60 other mysteries, novels, and short story collections. His Inspector Crow series includes A Lover Too Many, Murder in the Mine, The Woods Murder, Error of Judgment, and Murder for Money, among others. The Eric Ward series, of which The Sedleigh Hall Murder is the first (and originally published as A Certain Blindness in 1981), includes 17 novels. The Arnold Landon series is comprised of 22 novels. Lewis lives in northern England.
The Phantom Murder is yet another consistently fine Eric Ward mystery. Lewis keeps the personal story of his hero moving as quickly as the story of the mystery he’s trying to solve. With a thrilling ending and wonderfully drawn characters, it’s a mystery winner.