The drama begins in New York City in 1922, when Brendan Daly, member of The White Hand, an Irish mob who rules the waterfronts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, is taken from his home by four men. His wife is shot and his children, Gavin and Aileen, left orphaned. Whisked away to Ireland after the violence, the children have one precious memento of their father: an antique pocket watch given to them as they set sail on the Mauretania. Fast-forward to present-day Brighton, England. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is assigned the case of an elderly woman brutally murdered in the course of a robbery, her antique-filled home robbed of its valuable contents—even the watch hidden in a secret compartment of a safe.
The woman is Aileen McWhirter, eighty-nine, sister of Gavin Daly: the son and daughter of the gangster kidnapped in New York in 1922. An antiques dealer, Gavin is now a man of wealth but well-acquainted with the schemes of local robbery rings and the activities of “knocker-boys,” cons who set up unsuspecting victims for professional robberies: “Revenge. A dish best eaten cold.” It doesn’t take long before Grace realizes that this case is a Pandora’s box, a conflict born of a violent history, the culprits a mix of the old and the new brought together in common greed. Beginning the investigation with the input of his detectives, Grace gathers information on a mix of well-known criminals, bit by bit piecing together an ancient vendetta and a current opportunity to make millions from selling the stolen items.
The cast of characters is as varied as the backgrounds of the players, from the wealthy 95-year-old Gavin Daly and his business contacts, to the underworld creatures, a network of seedy criminal for hire and more public figures, a hierarchy of henchmen who eventually lead Grace to the man behind the robbery—if he can find him before an ancient enemy gets there first. The job is made more complex by personal issues. Grace’s newborn son takes all the energy of the new parents, and an unexpected tragedy befalls his right-hand man, Detective Glenn Branson. Then there’s the matter of an aggrieved ex-con ready to even the score with DS Grace for ruining his life years before. Newly released, this man has already made elaborate plans in an ugly scenario to return the favor to Grace in kind.
From Brighton to New York City and Marbella, Spain, the action moves fluidly from one event to another. Grace and his crew gather facts and histories, linking criminals and their actions in a pattern that leads eventually to NYC. There the animosity of years finally comes to a final resolution, enemies facing one another, fathers and sons on a collision course long in the making. With the watch at the heart of the mystery, it is literally a race against the clock as Grace travels to New York only to find himself under attack at home, torn between his need to follow the case to the end and to protect his loved ones. Tightly-plotted and historically accurate, Dead Man's Time is a wild ride through past and present, the long arm of memory reaching out from one generation to another to fulfill the promise of a young son to his father.