A spiritualist, an insane asylum, a lost little girl . . .
When Clive, anxious to distract a depressed Henrietta, begs Sergeant Frank Davis for a case, he is assigned to investigating a seemingly boring affair: a spiritualist woman operating in an abandoned schoolhouse on the edge of town who is suspected of robbing people of their valuables. What begins as an open and shut case becomes more complicated, however, when Henrietta—much to Clive’s dismay—begins to believe the spiritualist's strange ramblings.
Meanwhile, Elsie begs Clive and Henrietta to help her and the object of her budding love, Gunther, locate the whereabouts of one Liesel Klinkhammer, the German woman Gunther has traveled to America to find and the mother of the little girl, Anna, whom he has brought along with him. The search leads them to Dunning Asylum, where they discover some terrible truths about Liesel. When the child, Anna, is herself mistakenly admitted to the asylum after an epileptic fit, Clive and Henrietta return to Dunning to retrieve her. This time, however, Henrietta begins to suspect that something darker may be happening. When Clive doesn’t believe her, she decides to take matters into her own hands . . . with horrifying results.
Set in 1936, Cox's enjoyable fifth Henrietta and Inspector Howard novel (after 2019's A Veil Removed) opens with Henrietta agreeing to help Gunther, a custodian at Chicago's Mundelein College, find the mother of five-year-old Anna Klinkhammer, who recently arrived with him from Germany. Anna's mother, a boarder at Gunther's mother's German boarding house, abandoned the girl before coming to the U.S. The search takes Henrietta and her husband, former police inspector Clive Howard, to a psychiatric hospital, where they discover Anna's mother has died. When Anna mistakenly ends up in the same hospital ward as her mother, Henrietta decides to do some sleuthing on her own and realizes that someone is targeting the patients. Meanwhile, Clive works to prove a clairvoyant a fraud, and Henrietta tries to persuade a young woman not to shoot her abusive father. Each straightforward story line ends neatly and with little fanfare. The book's strength lies in its vivid descriptive prose and historical accuracy. Those seeking suspense should look elsewhere.