A young man risks his life for the woman he loves.
Will Anderson and Elizabeth Hume have had a rocky romance. Certainly no one in the wealthy families they were born into would have predicted the drama of their lives. A drunken Will forced Elizabeth into a sexual encounter, resulting in a pregnancy she aborted. Will himself has been disfigured and fought both mobsters and morphine. Now that his life’s on a more even keel, he’s willing to put himself in danger again to help Elizabeth’s family. Elizabeth’s mother, who suffers from early dementia, is the guardian of her nephew, Robert, who’s been shut up in the Eloise Hospital Insane Asylum for many years. Robert is accused of killing a fellow inmate by bizarre means straight out of The Phantom of the Opera. Certain of Robert’s innocence, both Will and Elizabeth go undercover in the hospital, Elizabeth as a volunteer, Will as an amnesiac patient. They get some help from Detective Riordan, who once suspected Will of murder, but fail to reckon with the power of the hospital’s private police force. Will is soon subjected to inhumane treatment by a staff that’s apparently covering up other murders. When some of the inmates seem more normal than the staff, Will’s decisions about whom to trust could cost him his life.
Johnson’s third chronicle of early-1900s Detroit (Motor City Shakedown, 2011, etc.) provides a mystery with suspects aplenty and a scary portrait of life in an insane asylum.