The Reverend Charles Dodgson, a don at Oxford University, is still quartered at the Christ Church house on campus, and still writing his Alice stories (The Problem of the Evil Editor, 2000, etc.) as Lewis Carroll. When he gets a visit from fellow-author Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife Touie, they’re just in time to take an interest in some strange events on campus. James Ingram, one of the house servants, has been found dead in the waters under Magdalene Bridge. There’s no shortage of suspects, since Ingram was a blackmailer as well as a petty thief—all to serve his student patron at Oxford’s new Lady Margaret Hall for women. Once a maid (not a governess, as she claims) for the wealthy Berwick family, for whom Ingram was a butler, Dianna, née Daisy, was appalled by his threat to reveal her humble past employment as well as his possession of a nude photograph of her taken by the Reverend Dodgson when she was six. The three students who carted Ingram’s body from the river are also under suspicion, along with the august Berwick family. Inspector Truscott is unimpressed by Dr. Doyle’s detecting skills, but it’s Doyle’s take on the circumstances surrounding the fatality that winds up the case.
A lively start all too soon bogged down in a torrent of minutiae. Despite the sluggish pace, though, Rogow provides an interesting look at the manners and mores of the academic world of the Victorians.