Perry’s latest sojourn among the other Victorians begins with a double mystery for private inquiry agent William Monk’s nurse wife. Hester Monk’s brother Charles Latterly wants his sister to get to the bottom of his wife Imogen’s erratic behavior. Before Hester can properly begin, however, whatever has been troubling Imogen is swiftly overshadowed by graver troubles: Elissa Beck, the beautiful wife of Dr. Kristian Beck, Hester’s colleague at Hampstead Hospital, is murdered at the lodgings of Argo Allardyce, the artist who had been hired by Elissa’s father, politically ambitious attorney Fuller Pendreigh, to paint her portrait. What makes the crime even more heinous is that Allardyce’s model Sarah Mackeson was discovered on the scene with her neck broken as well—because the double fatality rules out any possible defense of accident or involuntary manslaughter. For Kristian’s sake, Hester prays that Elissa became a victim only because she interrupted a murder in progress, but the physical evidence soon shows that Elissa was killed first, and soon thereafter Monk’s loathed former superior, Supt. Runcorn, arrests Kristian. Perry (Funeral in Blue, p. 1171, etc.) passes over most of Kristian’s trial in summary—focusing instead on Monk’s fact-finding trip to Vienna, which provides background material about Elissa’s life with Kristian and an excuse for some canned history of the 1848 uprising—before returning to London for her feeble final thunderclap.
The Victorian abuses that come in for criticism this time are gambling, anti-Semitism, and the ban on property rights for married women. As usual, however, the principals’ many ringing speeches show them equally exercised over more timeless problems of love and betrayal.