An heiress breaks free of social conventions and attempts to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance in 1842 Philadelphia in Cordelia Frances Biddle’s first Martha Beale mystery
When her father fails to appear for lunch at their country estate, Martha Beale knows something is wrong. The family’s faithful dogs discover Lemuel Beale’s hunting rifle by the river, but there is no sign of the millionaire financier. Refusing to believe he is dead, his daughter—and sole heir—begins a discreet investigation with the help of the mayor’s aide, Thomas Kelman.
But Philadelphia in 1842 is a dangerous place for a female, especially a twenty-six-year-old single woman. Martha’s quest for answers takes her from the pinnacle of high society, which is abuzz about a visiting European conjurer who communicates with the dead, to the city’s tragic slums where a brutal killer is targeting young prostitutes—and through it all Martha will confront the most ruthless aspects of human nature.
In a story deeply rooted in time and place and brimming with atmosphere and suspense, Cordelia Frances Biddle conjures a mesmerizing world of intrigue and hidden desires.
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.