Philadelphia heiress and amateur sleuth Martha Beale investigates the kidnapping of a society girl on the verge of marriage in Cordelia Frances Biddle’s second Martha Beale mystery
Martha Beale, now the guardian of seven-year-old Ella and five-year-old Cai, has just returned to Philadelphia after summering in the country. The children have to begin school, and Martha looks forward to a reunion with Thomas Kelman, even though she isn’t sure where their relationship stands. But a string of robberies is plaguing the city and the nineteen-year-old daughter of one of Philadelphia’s wealthiest families has vanished.
With no unified police force, the mayor depends on Thomas Kelman to sort out criminal matters. Martha reluctantly acts as a liaison between Thomas and the missing girl’s parents, but the investigation soon takes a darker turn. As suspicion falls on rich and poor alike, both the guilty and innocent become ensnared in a web of deception and escalating violence.
Set in Philadelphia in 1842, Biddle's second mystery to feature upper-class amateur sleuth Martha Beale (after 2007's "The Conjurer") offers fully human characters and a credible plot. When a wealthy young woman goes missing, Martha and Thomas Kelman, the mayor's assistant in charge of solving crimes, investigate. As their hunt takes them into the homes of the rich, a brothel frequented by the well-to-do and the streets of the poor, Martha and Thomas must face their own feelings for each other and resolve their class differences. Meanwhile, Martha's adopted daughter, Ella, embarks on a search for her real mother, and Martha's young adopted son, Cai, worries about ghosts who come down the chimney. Exceptional attention to period detail helps transport the reader to a past very unlike our own and yet so similar. "" .