Shades of the 19th-century Burke and Hare murders haunt an American lass working in Edinburgh.
Delaney Nichols is the capable assistant to Edwin MacAlister, whose bookstore, The Cracked Spine, is known for housing rare books and a secret room rumored to be packed with treasures. Delaney’s become friendly with medical students Sophie and Rena, who recently sold her boss some distinctive hand-drawn medical books. At a pub one night, Delaney meets the respected but rather odd Dr. Eban, one of their professors, who’s obsessed with William Burke and William Hare, infamous for selling corpses—often those of people they murdered—to Dr. Robert Knox for his dissection classes at the university. Also at the pub is their friend Mallory, whose body Delaney’s co-workers Hamlet and Rosie find the next morning in the close behind the bookstore. Delaney has worked with Inspector Winters in the past (Of Books and Bagpipes, 2017, etc.), but the man in charge of this case is another American transplant, Inspector Raymond Pierce. Even so, Delaney can’t resist the urge to look into the mystery. Her research turns up some strange things, from Dr. Eban’s former friendship with a man still wanted for murder to a set of scalpels that most likely belonged to Dr. Knox. Though her boyfriend, Tom, is supportive of her sleuthing, his past gets her in a bit of trouble when one of his jealous ex-girlfriends, now a reporter, writes a piece hinting that Delaney has something to hide. Delaney’s friends who work at the university are a major help in discovering more clues, but so many people are hiding secrets that it will be an uphill struggle to unmask the killer.
A complicated mystery with plenty of historically based characters and whose ending provides more than one kind of surprise.