1816 was the year without a summer. A rare climatic event has brought frost to July, and a lingering fog casts a pall over Dublin – a city stirred by zealotry and civil unrest, torn between evangelical and rationalist dogma.
Amid the disquiet, a young nursemaid in a pious household conceals a pregnancy and then murders her newborn. Rumours swirl about the identity of the child’s father, but before an inquest can be held, the maid is found dead. When Abigail Lawless, the eighteen-year-old daughter of the city coroner, by chance discovers a message from the maid’s seducer, she is drawn into a world of hidden meanings and deceit.
An only child, Abigail has been raised amid the books and instruments of her father’s grim profession. Pushing against the restrictions society places on a girl her age, she pursues an increasingly dangerous investigation. As she leads us through dissection rooms and dead houses, gothic churches and elegant ballrooms, watching from the shadows is a sinister figure whom she believes has killed twice already, and is waiting to kill again. . . Determined, resourceful and intuitive, and more than just a dutiful daughter or society débutante, Abigail Lawless emerges as a memorable young sleuth operating at the dawn of forensic science.
Born in Co. Wexford, Andrew Hughes was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. A qualified archivist, he worked for RTÉ before going freelance. It was while researching his social history of Fitzwilliam Square – Lives Less Ordinary: Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Square, 1798-1922 – that he came across the true story of John Delahunt, a Victorian murderer and Dublin Castle informer. His debut novel, The Convictions of John Delahunt, was shortlisted for the Bord Gáis Irish Crime Book of the Year. The Coroner’s Daughter, a tale of a young lady sleuth operating at the dawn of forensic science, was nominated for the CWA Historical Dagger. Andrew lives in Drumcondra, where he continues to work on archival and historical research projects, as well as Dublin-set crime fiction.