Based on the unsolved real-life disappearance of a Mount Holyoke student in 1897—a haunting novel of intrigue, longing, and terror, perfect for fans of Donna Tartt and Sarah Waters
Massachusetts, 1897: Bertha Mellish, “the most peculiar, quiet, reserved girl” at Mount Holyoke College, is missing.
As a search team dredges the pond where Bertha might have drowned, her panicked father and sister arrive desperate to find some clue to her fate or state of mind. Bertha’s best friend, Agnes, a scholarly loner studying medicine, might know the truth, but she is being unhelpfully tightlipped, inciting the suspicions of Bertha’s family, her classmates, and the private investigator hired by the Mellish family doctor. As secrets from Agnes’s and Bertha’s lives come to light, so do the competing agendas driving each person who is searching for Bertha.
Where did Bertha go? Who would want to hurt her? And could she still be alive?
Edmund White Award–winning author Katharine Beutner takes a real-life unsolved mystery and crafts it into an unforgettable historical portrait of academia, family trauma, and the risks faced by women who dared to pursue unconventional paths at the end of the 19th century.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Katharine Beutner takes inspiration from the real-life unsolved disappearance of a promising young woman in this chilling work of historical fiction. Bertha Mellish was a quiet and reserved student at Mount Holyoke College before she went missing from her room in 1897. Strange and seemingly unconnected clues abound—including a series of minor thefts and a mysterious suitor—but with no body found, it falls to Bertha’s sister and the Mellish family doctor to try to uncover what happened and get Bertha’s best friend, Agnes, to tell them what she knows. Delving into sexual abuse, queer history, and family drama, Katharine Beutner’s novel is moody and unsettling, steeped in chilly New England history. Killingly immersed us in a world of dark secrets, surprises, gothic shivers, and psychological suspense.