SYMPTOMS OF DEATH
Berkley, May 2002, 5.99, 240 pp.
In Victorian England, the latest London season ends and the nobility retires to their country estates. In Newton, the fifth Earl of Dunsford hosts a house party and the cream of society is there. One night at dinner, a hysterical kitchen maid threatens the earl with a knife until one of the guests Dr. Alexandra Gladstone calms her down.
The next morning, Alexandra is called to the estate to assist the coroner in figuring out how Dunsford was murdered. Everyone thinks it was the maid who threatened him the night before but the doctor says somebody strangled him. The knife wound happened after he was dead. Circumstantial evidence forces the local magistrate to arrest the maid but he doesn't know that every guest at the earl's house wanted him dead for one solid reason or another. Alexandra intends to see that justice is done even if it means putting her own life in danger.
The villain of the piece is actually the deceased who had so many enemies, including a cuckolded husband, an adulterous wife, a sodomist and a man who was fleeced by the victim, that the audience won't be able to decide who had the best motive. The heroine of SYMPTOMS OF DEATH is not the typical Victorian society woman but a woman who could have thrived in today's enlightened atmosphere. Readers will look forward to seeing her in future tales.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner