An affluent 19th-century wife and aspiring sleuth perseveres in the face of police skepticism to probe a series of suspicious deaths in Cracow.
A provocative prologue introduces an anonymous killer sneaking away after examining a frail corpse. The year is 1893, and restless Zofia Turbotyńska struggles, because of her provincial roots, to be accepted in Cracow high society. Keeping an efficient household for her husband, esteemed medical professor Ignacy Turbotyński doesn’t satisfy her. So she undertakes various projects to occupy her time and prove her worth. When her cook, Franciszka, asks for time off to visit her grandmother at Helcel House, Zofia decides to solicit the residents for donations to a charity raffle she’s organizing for the benefit of scrofulous children. The benevolent nuns who run the house are receptive. On her initial visit, Zofia notices a bit of a stir over Mrs. Mohr, a resident who’s gone missing. Her reading of Poe surely has an effect on her, for when she visits Helcel House again, Zofia takes the initiative to question the staff about the still-missing resident. Strangely invigorated, she undertakes a search of the premises and discovers Mrs. Mohr’s body hidden under a blanket in the attic. The consensus is a fatal fall while wandering. Zofia is not so sure. When another Helcel resident is found murdered, Zofia alone links the two deaths and doggedly proceeds to investigate. In a nod to Victorian convention, Szymiczkowa (the pseudonym of partners Jacek Dehnel and Piotr Tarczyński) begins each chapter with a wry summary of what’s to come.
A delightful debut whodunit written with abundant wit and flair. Pray for a series to follow.