Apothecary John Rawlings crisscrosses Georgian England by stagecoach to uncover the identity of both a murderer and a victim in this latest installment in the long-running series (Death in Hellfire, 2008, etc.).
Mr. Rawlings has already given up hope of marrying his ladylove, the free-spirited Marchesa Elizabeth di Lorenzi, when he receives a letter summoning him to her home in Exeter. Dashing for a stagecoach bound there, he finds himself traveling among a motley company including an ill-tempered German spinster, a dancing master, a comely milliner and a formidable yet courtly boxer, the Black Pyramid. Before Mr. Rawlings can reunite with Lady Elizabeth, one of the party is brutally murdered at the last inn of the journey—bludgeoned to death with a savagery that tells the apothecary this is no ordinary highway robbery. Temporarily leaving the case in the hands of the competent local constable, Mr. Rawlings goes to Lady Elizabeth, only to find that in the midst of death we are in life: The Marchesa is enceinte and still will not marry him. She will, however, accept his ministrations and use her considerable influence to help him investigate the suspects. The passengers meet again at a boxing match and a ball, and still Rawlings cannot unravel the mystery until he journeys to Lewes, where he encounters a darker past than he imagined.
Rich in period detail and colorful characters, with a neat puzzle, moments of sweetness and a satisfying conclusion, this adventure will please series fans and newcomers alike.