Who is stalking Florence Nightingale and her nurses? Is it the legendary Beast of the Crimean, or someone closer to home? In 1855, Britain and France are fighting to keep the Russians from snatching the Crimean Peninsula from the Ottoman Empire, and Nightingale, a wealthy young society woman, has made it her mission to improve the wretched conditions in the British military hospitals in Turkey—despite fierce objections from the male doctors around her. When young women start turning up dead, their mouths sewn shut with embroidered fabric roses, Inspector Charles Field (the real-life inspiration for Charles Dickens’s Inspector Bucket in Bleak House) is sent from England to find the killer among the doctors, military men, journalists, and others swarming Turkey’s famous Barrack Hospital. Here Field meets both the famous Nightingale as well as Nurse Jane Rolly, the woman who will become his wife, and as he races to protect them, the prime suspect takes his own life.
Case closed. Or is it?
Twelve years later, back in London, amid the turmoil surrounding the expansion of voting rights, women again start turning up dead, their mouths covered by that telltale embroidered rose. Did Field suspect the wrong man before, or is he dealing with a deviant copycat? Either way, he must race against time to stop the killer before more bodies are discovered, and before his own family gets pulled into danger. Populated by real figures of the day, from Benjamin Disraeli to novelist Wilkie Collins to, of course, Florence Nightingale herself, and steeped in historical details of 1860s London, The Nightingale Affair plays out against a backdrop of a rapidly changing society. Most of all, it is a pure reading delight, offering shocks, unforgettably vivid scenes, and surprising twists.
“Because Mason places the killer and his excuses openly among his protagonists, and the threats to Field and his family are menacing and time-linked, The Nightingale Affair is at least as much of a thriller (think: ticking clock) as it is a historical novel. Yet the portrait of Nightingale both in her prime and as an aging yet still effective advocate is strong and memorable, giving the book its lively flavor that hints at all the shifts in women’s rights and health care about to unfold. Don’t expect an extraordinary police investigation here; read the book instead for the colorful storytelling around this classic “change agent” and her insistence on respect, honor, and care.”—The New York Journal of Books
readers will find a detective whose humility, unflinching observations, and pragmatic take on
rules are bound to charm. Mason’s second Field thriller is a deep, gritty dive into Victorian
London that’s perfect for fans of Alex Grecian’s Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad series and Caleb
Carr’s The Alienist."—Booklist
"The book's first part, set mainly in Crimea, is compelling, in part because Nightingale herself is a fascinating character... It does boast a blockbuster ending in subterranean London, rich historical detail, and a cast of real characters, from Benjamin Disraeli to Dickens himself. A killer who once stalked Florence Nightingale’s nurses seems to be resurrected in this satisfying thriller."—Kirkus Reviews