In carrying out the wishes of a dying man, a lady investigator gets herself entangled in a mystery that touches her own life.
Summoned to the bedside of wealthy Mr. Jacob Welland in 1851, discreet private detective Mrs. Laetitia Rodd doubts that she can comfort the dying man. Jacob is adamant that Mrs. Rodd find his brother Joshua’s whereabouts so that Jacob can make amends before succumbing to consumption. Jacob can offer few details about Joshua’s life since the two fell out over the obligatory woman and Joshua became a young eccentric at Oxford. Knowing there’s no time to spare, Mrs. Rodd sets out to search for Joshua, arranging to stay with longtime friends Arthur and Rachel Somers while she makes inquiries. Though Arthur and Rachel lead a quiet life, it seems a happy one, and Mrs. Rodd feels responsible for her part in getting the two together many years before, when Arthur was just a young curate. Now Arthur is mentoring his own young curate, the charismatic Mr. Henry Barton, who seems to have earned the affection and admiration of both Arthur and Rachel; Mrs. Rodd is more reserved in her judgment of him. In her quest to find Joshua Welland, Mrs. Rodd immerses herself in the Somers household and the Oxford community in hopes of finding someone willing to connect her to Joshua, however informally. What follows is something even the astute Mrs. Rodd could not have predicted: Secrets! Scandal! Murder! Indeed, the Welland matter may be the least complicated part of it all.
Charmingly written, combining nods to manners of the time with a bit of modern sass.