Researching eminent Victorians can be dangerous, DI Kathy Kolla realizes; you can end up as dead as they are, and by the same means.
Titian-haired Marion Summers, a doctoral student in European literature, collapses one morning on arriving at the London Library. The cause of her death, according to pathologist Sundeep Mehta, was arsenic, a poison so seldom used by contemporary criminals that it seems a relic from the 19th century. Investigating possible sources of the poison, Kathy begins to see that Marion’s demise echoes in disturbingly literal ways the subject of her research: the interlocking relationships among Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other Pre-Raphaelite poets and painters—as well as, it turns out, some of their murderous Victorian contemporaries. Although Marion’s brutish stepfather Keith Rafferty and creepy stalker Nigel Ogilvie inject a note of tawdry modernity into the proceedings, the truth behind her death seems related to her academic connections to Dr. Anthony da Silva, her dissertation supervisor, and biographer Sophie Warrender, for whom Marion worked as a part-time researcher. As usual, Maitland delights in revealing layer upon layer of skullduggery. While Kathy’s detective work slowly reveals “a murderess acting as a kind of hidden agent within the Pre-Raphaelite circle,” Marion’s case, first classified as murder, later seems more likely a suicide until a second, virtually identical death points the finger at murder once more.
Like All My Enemies (2009), average for this distinguished series. But Kathy’s fans, presented with two installments of her adventures in two months, can hardly complain.