Dublin, 1816 – the year without a summer. A rare climatic event has brought frost to mid-July, and a lingering fog casts a pall over a city torn between evangelical and rationalist dogma, stirred by zealotry and civil unrest.
Amid the disquiet, a young nursemaid in a pious household conceals a pregnancy and then murders her newborn. Rumours swirl about the identity of the child’s father, but before an inquest can be held, the maid is found dead. When Abigail Lawless, the eighteen-year-old daughter of the coroner, by chance discovers a message from the maid’s seducer, she is drawn ever deeper into a world of hidden meanings and deceit.
An only child, Abigail has been raised amid the books and instruments of her father’s grim profession. Now she leads us through dissection rooms and dead houses, gothic churches and elegant ballrooms, while in the shadows, a sinister figure whom she believes has killed twice already, is waiting to kill again...
Determined, resourceful and intuitive, and more than just a dutiful daughter or society débutante, Abigail Lawless emerges as a young lady sleuth operating at the dawn of forensic science.