In this new mystery series by Christine Trent, Florence Nightingale must not only convince the world that she is a competent superintendent of a hospital for gentlewomen–she must also solve a murder case without getting killed herself.
Florence has only been superintendent for one week before the body of one of her nurses is found hanging in the hospital library. While the authorities are quick to brush it off as a suicide, Florence’s medical expertise recognizes that a corpse can’t cut its own wrists after death. She begins interviewing her hospital staff about the matter while at the same time trying to implement some of her revolutionary ideas about nurse hygiene and patient care. Unfortunately, however, her changes encounter as much hostility as does her investigation. Each of the nurses has something to hide, and the hospital patrons and patients may not be innocent themselves. As threats mount, the board in charge of the hospital begins to doubt Florence’s abilities to keep order and Florence’s mother applies pressure for her to return home like a dutiful Victorian daughter. Can Florence ferret out the killer before she loses her position and her chance to change the medical world?
This book was a fascinating look at the state of nursing in Victorian England and the reforms effected by Florence Nightingale. Her unconventional life was depicted in full color, and her personality unfolded beautifully with the first person narrative. Her humility in undertaking tasks far beneath a “gentlewoman” was inspiring as was her tenacity in teaching new methods that ran counter to prevailing practices. I found the murder mystery itself a little farfetched, but all in all, this was a delightful weekend read that makes me want to learn more about the Lady with the Lamp.