Third in the Dr. Alexandra Gladstone series, this Victorian Englandset novel chronicles a mysterious disease and gruesome murders. While treating whooping-cough sufferers, Alexandra is faced with the deaths of middle-aged men who developed gangrenous sores she couldn't cure. One victim recovered but was found dead—his heart removed.

When young Lucas Pendennis is discovered carrying the heart, the locals cry out for his arrest. But Alexandra believes that the mentally incapacitated young man couldn't have committed the brutal crime with the precision shown in the extraction of the heart. Though Alexandra has earned some respect as a physician, her gender invalidates her opinion of the crime, and with the help of her housekeeper, Nancy, she seeks to discover the killer's identity and absolve Lucas.

Alexandra also travels to London for a seminar and encounters handsome would-be suitor Nicholas Forsythe. A hint of romance is creatively combined with the brutal crime when another murder occurs and Nancy goes missing. Sleuthing from Alexandra and Nicholas leads to a conclusion that's as surprising as it is gripping. (Oct. '03, 201 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Sheri Melnick