Perry's Victorian era Police Inspector William Monk (The Face of a Stranger, etc.) plays second fiddle here to Hester Latterly, the plain, outspoken nurse whose experiences in the Crimea bloodbath have hardened her against the hypocrisies of London society. Monk is investigating the bedroom stabbing-death of Octavia Haslett, who's the daughter of rich, powerful Sir Basil Moidore and whose dearly loved husband was killed in battle in the Crimea two years ago. Monk is able to prove that there was no outside intruder. Suspicion now falls on the numerous servants and the resident family--Araminta, a second daughter and her husband Myles; Sir Basil's wife Lady Beatrice; his widowed sister Fanella; son Cyprian, daughter-in-law Romola, and Lady Beatrice's brother Septimus. During a house search, Monk finds evidence that he's sure has been planted to incriminate one of the servants. His surly superior Runcorn violently disagrees, and Monk is summarily fired. Determined to find the truth, he enlists Hester's help--and it's she who finally uncovers the shocking realities of the puzzle. Repetitive emphasis on women's sorry lot in Victorian England is a minor irritant in what is nevertheless a richly textured, masterfully plotted, thoroughly enjoyable story.