David McGill is a New Zealand social historian who has published 53 books. Born in Auckland, educated in the Bay of Plenty and at a Christchurch seminary, he trained as a teacher and did a BA at Victoria University of Wellington. He worked as a feature writer for The Listener, Sydney’s The Bulletin, London’s TVTimes, wrote columns for the Evening Post in Wellington and edited a local lifestyle magazine before becoming a full-time writer in 1984. His book subjects include Ghost Towns of New Zealand and the country’s first bushranger, local and national heritage buildings, Kiwi prisoners of war, the history of the NZ Customs Department, a biography of a criminal lawyer, a personal history of rock music, a rail journey around the country, historical and comic novels, several thrillers and six collections of Kiwi slang. He collects owl figurines and reads thrillers.
In June 1935 Takapuna inventor Victor Penny was attacked by foreign agents seeking what the newspapers dubbed a ‘death ray’. The government secretly shifted him to Somes Island in Wellington harbour to develop the weapon. The novel of this true story is told by Temporary Acting Detective Dan Delaney, seconded to Special Branch, forerunner of the Security Intelligence Service.
Special Branch is monitoring the German Club in Auckland, an increasingly shrill supporter of the Nazi regime. The unconventional Auckland theatrical scene has made sensational headlines with the alleged murder of his wife by impresario Eric Mareo, his accuser the bisexual dancer Freda Stark, lover of his deceased partner. A mysterious German/Jewish refugee has been involved in both the German Club and this Bohemian scene, making her a person of interest to the young detective and a recently arrived German diplomat.
The detective and a helpful Scotland Yard adviser pursue and are pursued by spies determined to steal Penny’s blueprint. Round-the-clock protection is provided for Penny by armed soldiers on the supposedly secure Somes Island government facility, used to imprison enemy aliens in the Great War. Corruption on the island is uncovered by the detectives as they face lethal force to acquire an invention all major countries are actively chasing.