1856. Depravity reigns from the jungles of Borneo to the drawing rooms of London.
Deep in the basement of London’s St. Bart’s hospital, Professor Hatton and his able assistant Roumande work in the new field of forensics, which has led Scotland Yard’s Inspector Adams to call on them for clues in the death of Lady Bessingham, an eccentric who courted controversy. Lying semi-naked and butchered, with an unusual scent around her, the corpse is surrounded by her collection of tribal masks from the Malay Archipelago. Unfortunately, some of her jewelry is missing, as is a cache of letters written to her by Benjamin Broderig on an expedition to Borneo. He is desperate to retrieve those letters, which question whether man evolved from beasts, a theory violently disputed with the Duke of Monreith in the House of Lords. More deaths follow: a bookseller pinned to the floor like a specimen, a radical reporter with his neck punctured and stitched up, a Cambridge don skinned and stuffed, a spate of pubescent girls. Egged on by Broderig to investigate the Duke, who has unseemly sexual proclivities, Inspector Adams, who has a few impolitic ones of his own, demurs. While Hatton and Roumande sift clues, the most telling secrets are revealed by excerpts from Broderig’s correspondence with Lady Bessingham. It takes all Hatton and Roumande’s skills to assign blame appropriately and settle matters with discretion.
A so-so debut for forensic scientists Hatton and Roumande, with a few grisly bits and an endearing glimpse of a botanist collecting specimens in Borneo.