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  • Florence Nightingale at her best

    Christine Trent has a couple of series of historical British mysteries going - one whose main protagonist is Violet Morgan, a wife who takes over her husband's undertaking business, and this series, of which this novel, A Murderous Malady features a private detective written in the persona of Florence Nightingale, along with several other actual public characters of that time period. All of her mysteries are completely stand-alone, though there are several characters that recur throughout the series. The backgrounds and descriptive passages are completely authentic. I want to read all of these books by Christine Trent. A Murderous Malady takes place in London in the summer of 1854, in the Soho district, and in Florence's hospital in Marylebone where she also lives, Our main locations are her hospital, The Establishment for the Temporary Illness of Gentlewomen, but also in the fine home of the Secretary of War Sidney Herbert and his wife Liz, who is Florence's dear friend. Visiting the Herbert home is the father of Liz, Lieutenant General Charles a'Court, who is a life-long member of Her Majesty's military, given the colonelcy of the 41st Welsh Regiment of Foot in 1848. Sidney is attempting to sort out the soldier's needs at the beginning of the war in Crimea. A lot going on, but the tale is easily followed. Elizabeth and her father are riding to the British Museum to view a new exhibit by way of Soho, a festering slum with a current spreading outbreak of cholera. Their open carriage is attacked by a man on foot, who screams insults at Liz before he is shoved off by the coachman. Almost immediately several shots are fired from the crowded street. Liz is a near miss, the shot cutting a flower from her hat. The coachman, Josh Pagg, is killed. The carriage quickly carries them out of danger thanks to the fast reactions of the family tiger riding on the back of the carriage, Isaac Bent. But no one seems to know who was the actual target of the attack, nor who made the decision to access the British Museum through the dangerous Soho district, nor could they follow the logic of how their route would be known to the assassin. All mysteries placed in the hand of friend Florance and her side-kick and note taker Mary Clarke, the widow of Florance's tutor in her youth. Also, as the city is in the grips of a cholera epidemic, Florence is involved in her own hospital's needs and in upgrading the large Middlesex Hospital nearby to cover the needs of their overflowing patients. Also with the aid of the Reverend Henry Whitehead and Doctor John Snow, a London doctor who treats and both the inhabitants on Soho and the royal family, Florence is busy trying to find work for needy Soho families she encounters during cholera visits, solving the mystery of the attempted murder of her friend Liz, and charting the outbreaks of cholera in an effort to pinpoint the cause of the disease. Flo and Mary become frequent visitors of the Soho Red Lion Inn and Brewery both seeking employment for needy families and resolving the mystery of the fact that neither workers at the brewery nor customers of the bar have been brought down with King Cholera. Florence Nightingale is a very busy woman. But can she do it all? I received a free electronic copy of this historical novel from Netgalley, Christine Trent and Crooked Lane Books. I have read this book of my own volition and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work

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