Lizzie Martin has just just arrived in London from Derbyshire to take up a new position as ladys companion. Almost immediately, she discovers that the murdered body she saw being carried from the site of the construction of the new St. Pancreas railway terminus, is that of her predecessor. While others accuse the woman of bringing her fate upon herself, Lizzie is soon persuaded that theres a deeper mystery. After finding disturbing facts in her new home, Lizzie becomes a secret source of information for Inspector Benjamin Ross, an intriguing man from her Derbyshire coalfields childhood. Part of the story is told from Bens point of view.
The books historical information is stronger than the plot, which needs a number of coincidences to reach a conclusion. Granger writes of a London in the process of being transformed above ground and below - via new under groundsewers and railways. The citys public places are noisy, dirty, and smoggy. On the streets, sellers of every item imaginable mingle with equally plentiful petty thieves. Deep class and gender expectations rigidly dictate ones life. Lizzies outspokenness and intelligence are not admired by her employer and her incredibly insensitive and boorish friends. Londons poor, who live in crowded squalor with the ever present danger of illnesses such as typhoid, diphtheria, and consumption, not surprisingly resist the authority of the police and refuse to come forth as witnesses. Granger also provides the reader with descriptions of the equally appalling lives of the pitmen and their children in the northern coal mines, and with facts about mining practices and laws.
First historical mystery for this prolific author of mystery series set in contemporary times.