A budding investigative agency takes on a new employee and two thorny cases.
Spring 1880 finds Lily Raynor returning to London from a stint of nursing in India and fleeing an undisclosed incident that changed her life. She's inherited her grandparents’ house and makes ends meet with the help of one annoying renter. Seeking office help for her World’s End Investigation Bureau, which has already solved a number of problems from missing dogs to cheating spouses, she interviews Felix Wilbraham, a young man dressed in good but worn clothes who’s obviously well-educated. Soon after she takes him on, Lily meets with Lord Berwick, who wants information on the actress Violetta da Rosa, with whom his young and unworldly son, Julian, has fallen in love. Felix is visited in turn by nervous Ernest Stibbins, who fear that someone plans to kill the much younger second wife who replaced his first, drowned after she fell off the Chelsea Bridge. Instead of disabusing Stibbins of the assumption that he’s Mr. Raynor, Felix accepts his case. Albertina Stibbins is a gifted psychic who senses a hidden threat to her life. As Lily worms her way into the circle of people who consult Albertina, Felix, no stranger to actresses or the theater, investigates Violetta, who he finds has both a boyfriend and an illegitimate daughter. Though he feels sorry for Violetta, Lily insists they must tell their client everything, a decision that has devastatingly unforeseen consequences. A disgruntled reporter tells Felix that many women have been discovered in the river just as dead as the first Mrs. Stibbins, but the police have no interest in investigating. Lily, who finds Albertina’s séances disquieting, feels a black cloud hanging over her as they investigate the members of the séance group, hoping to find who or what is threatening Albertina.
A marvelous addition to Clare’s varied repertoire of historical mysteries (The Angel in the Glass, 2018, etc.) introduces two captivating new detectives and features a surprising denouement.