How many times have I told you that we must appear to run this hotel as commercial proposition?"
Newly arrived in London, journalist Charles Venables has been invited by his friend Viola to stay — at least temporarily — at a residential hotel in Kensington. But there is something amiss at the genteel Garden Hotel. The prices are far too low. The residents are jittery and upset. On arriving, Charles overhears a threatening discussion between the proprietors Mr & Mrs Budge that suggests they are blackmailing some tenants. When the bedridden Mrs Budge disappears into thin air, it is clear that more than one inhabitant of the hotel has something to hide. Is it Egyptian medical student Eppiloki who believes Charles is working undercover? The elderly Miss Geranium who receives messages from the prophet Ezekial, the fanatical Reverend Septimus Blood, or the cat-loving Miss Mumby? Soon, a set of gruesome discoveries point to murder, and Charles must work with Detective Inspector Bray of Scotland Yard to prevent the killer from acting again.
Crime combines an intricate plot with an appealing sense of humour and ironic tone: "Viola had two passions in her life, her art and her bridge. Charles had hoped to be a third but he was beginning to abandon hope. He felt that while he might make her a satisfactory partner in life, he would certainly let her down at bridge."