Tjia's debut introduces a London courtesan who’s also a detective and a Victorian woman of mystery.
Now that she’s risen from common prostitute to wealthy courtesan, Heloise Chancey lives in a lovely house with her longtime personal servant, Amah Li Leen, a half-white, half-Chinese woman with secrets of her own. To keep from being bored, Heloise does detective work for Sir Thomas Avery, who brings her the case of a missing gentlewoman he fears may have fallen victim to a serial killer who’s been slaughtering prostitutes. The police, who believe the deaths were from botched abortions, have grown much more interested upon realizing the killer has removed all the victims’ sexual organs, internal and external. The missing woman is pregnant, unmarried Eleanor Carter, who vanished on her way to the convent her father sent her to. Eleanor has been spotted at the brothel owned by Madame Silvestre, where Heloise used to work. Renting a house in the area, Heloise gets no helpful answers from the madam, who admits knowing Eleanor but professes ignorance of her whereabouts. Claiming that Eleanor is her cousin, Heloise combs the mean streets looking for clues, even visiting the morgue and the office of the doctor who performed an abortion on her, ruining any chances that she could ever have a child. Although Heloise has bettered herself, she’s still stung when she’s snubbed by people who discover who she is. The fact that she’s being shadowed by a mysterious carriage gives special urgency to her search for a killer who may well have her on his list
It's a pleasure to watch Tjia's unusual sleuth get mad and get even in a grisly tale with a surprising climax; readers will eagerly await the sequel.