A British museum of pathology is home to murder and worse in a somber, stunning debut.
The murder itself is horrible beyond imagining. Second-year medical student Nicola Exner has been raped, strangled, eviscerated, partly dissected, and hung from the glass dome that towers two stories above. Ordinarily the expert mutilations would provide a clue for aging Chief Inspector Jack Castle and his ambitious, unscrupulous subordinate Inspector Beverley Wharton, but the leading suspects are all eminently qualified for the job. Nikki’s tutor, Alexander Hamilton-Bailey, is a professor of anatomy at St. Benjamin’s Medical School, museum head Basil Russell a professor of histopathology, curator Arthur Goodpasture and his assistants, Stephan Libman and Tim Bowman, all learned in the ways of the human body. The only failure, it seems, is forensic pathologist Charles Sydenham. His postmortem does nothing to derail police suspicions of Bowman, who’s already served time as Tim Bilroth for rape. When Bilroth tops himself in his cell, Helena Flemming, the solicitor his family hires to clear his name, persuades Dr. John Eisenmenger, the haunted ex-pathologist who runs the museum, to perform a second autopsy. The new investigation unleashes a storm of nasty secrets that will engulf everyone at St. Benjamin’s before the shattering conclusion.
Pathologist McCarthy creates a dark, densely imagined world in the demanding tradition of P.D. James, peoples it with characters who truly inspire pity and terror, and provides the most unsparing postmortem ever.