The Prince of Wales has asked four wealthy entrepreneurs and their elegant wives to the palace to discuss a fantastic idea: the construction of a six-thousand-mile railroad that would stretch the full length of Africa. But alas, the prince's gathering proves disastrous when the mutilated body of a prostitute hired for a late-night frolic (after the wives have retired to bed) turns up among the queen's monogrammed sheets in a palace linen closet. With great haste, Thomas Pitt, brilliant mainstay of Special Services, is summoned to resolve the crisis. The Pitts' cockney maid, Gracie, is also recruited - to pose as a palace servant and listen in on the guests' conversations, scan their bedrooms, and scrutinize their troubled faces for clues to hidden rivalries and attachments that could have led to murder. If Pitt and Gracie fail to find out who brutally murdered the young woman - as seems increasingly likely - Pitt's career will be over, and the scandal may just cause the monarchy to fall. With a cast of wonderful characters, among them the gentle Princess of Wales, and a twisting plot that takes us into the hidden world of the royal family, Anne Perry probes deeply the hearts of men and women ensnared by their emotions.