Night comes quickly to the Bahamas. That of 7 July 1943 was unpleasantly close and humid, for though the rains were nearing their end, the air was heavy with an approaching storm. It struck Nassau soon after midnight. By the time it had blown itself out, one of the world's richest men, Sir Harry Oakes, had been murdered in his own bedroom. He had been burned alive, then had his skull broken by four blows to the head. When the body was found at daybreak, bloody handprints marked the walls of the room, while a fan stirred small white feathers that clung to the charred corpse on the bed. Beyond it, the window stood wide open. Even in the middle of wartime, Oakes's death commanded front-page headlines in the world's newspapers, and began a series of events whose protagonists included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Ernest Hemingway, two French aristocrats, a suspected Nazi and a grey Maltese cat, and which culminated in the sensational trial and acquittal of Oakes's own son-in-law for the crime. Owen's brilliant telling of the story stands alongside James Fox's WHITE MISCHIEF as a true-crime classic as well as an extraordinary portrait of a glamorous and corrupt society.
James Owen trained as a barrister before turning to writing and he contributes to a range of newspapers. He became fascinated by the Harry Oakes story when he first heard about it from his grandmother, who still lives in Nassau and knew many of the people in this book.