Cambridge, 1898. When the unidentified body of a young woman is found floating in the River Cam, journalist Patrick O’Sullivan calls on one woman he is sure will solve the mystery: Mrs Vanessa Weatherburn. Vanessa agrees to take up the challenge, but, with a victim as well as a murderer to identify, she knows it will be no easy task.
Luckily, help is at hand; aided by her friends at Heffer’s bookshop and the cream of Cambridge’s academic community, Vanessa goes undercover to continue her investigation. Employing all her skills to reel in the killer, Vanessa can only hope it will be enough to solve the riddle of the river.
A rock solid plot and an intriguing backstory lift British author Shaw's fourth historical to feature Cambridge amateur sleuth Vanessa Weatherburn (after 2008's The Library Paradox). In the summer of 1898, Vanessa, now blessed with a baby boy and a supportive husband, looks into the death of a beautiful young woman found floating Ophelia-like in the river Cam. Actress Ivy Elliott, as she's later identified, proves to have been a victim of foul play. When a married gentleman admits to a dalliance with Elliott, Vanessa determines to see the case through. She attends a s ance and poses as a single woman of easy virtue, walking a fine line between her traditional mores and whatever is necessary to ferret out a killer. After drawing some very wrong conclusions, Vanessa discovers that goodness and love can be found in the most unexpected of places. A number of real-life notables, in particular radio developer Guglielmo Marconi, play supporting roles.