At the request of George Lomax, Lord Caterham reluctantly agrees to host a weekend party at his home, Chimneys. A murder occurs in the house, beginning a week of fast-paced events with police among the guests. The novel was well received at first publication, described as more than a murder mystery, as it is a treasure hunt. Later reviews found it a first-class romp and one of the author's best early thrillers. The most recent review says the novel requires a hefty suspension of disbelief. The later reviewers note that descriptions of characters use the terminology of the times in which it was written, and might be considered racist decades later.
The novel was written in 1925. The characters in the story refer to events that occurred about 7 years earlier, that is, at the end of the Great War when the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires were broken up. The war is never mentioned directly. Instead, in Chapter 19, Superintendent Battle says: "Just over seven years ago, there was a lot what they called reconstruction going on especially in the Near East." At the same time, many royal persons were in England, including the Queen of Herzoslovakia, and Count Stylptitch; all the Balkan states were interested parties in discussions taking place. It is at this time that the Koh-i-Noor diamond disappeared in the plot. Later, in an unspecified year, the Herzoslovakians rose up against the king and his commoner wife. About that time, Mrs. Virginia Revel and her husband Tim were part of the diplomatic mission from the UK to Herzoslovakia, so that Mrs. Revel had met Prince Michael; she was the only such person at the house party, to know Prince Michael, but not the only person in the house. The time immediately after the war was when the theft, solved in this novel, happened.