With the help of Oscar Wilde, a romantic H.G. Wells and others, intrepid reporter Nellie Bly probes the suspicious suicide of a beloved protégée.
Nellie visits the London coroner's office with trepidation to identify the body of young Hailey McGuire, who, after a childhood of poverty and abuse, had been working as a cub reporter for Nellie's boss, Joseph Pulitzer, at Nellie's recommendation. There's a suicide note in Hailey's handwriting, and a motive is provided by the corpse's pregnancy, but many days in the river have made certain identification impossible. In addition, the absence of a telltale birthmark, which the coroner says could have been washed away, gives Nellie a glimmer of hope. Even without it, she feels compelled to learn the truth. A menacing man named Archer dogs Nellie's investigation from its first steps. At Hailey's boardinghouse, Nellie learns of a possible gentleman friend and finds a hidden diary. But before she can read it, Archer steals it. A long and lively late-night meal with Oscar Wilde at the Langham Hotel refreshes Nellie and refocuses her determination to get to the bottom of the mystery. A trip to the Aquae Vitae spa at Bath gets her closer to the truth, but also to danger. Adventurer Herbert George Wells rescues Nellie from a tight spot, briefly serves as Watson to her Holmes, and even tries to woo her. There's also a late assist from Arthur Conan Doyle.
Period photos and apt quotations from the roman à clef sidekicks add additional spice to Nellie's third delightful romp (The Illusion of Murder, 2011, etc.).