Police surgeon Felix Carswell has joined Major Giles Vernon and his convalescent wife, Laura, for a few days in the elegant spa town of Stanegate – it’s a welcome holiday from the summer stench of Northminster. But no sooner has he arrived than a Spanish colonial gentleman, dying of consumption, requires his urgent care, while Major Vernon is called away to Lord Rothborough’s country house, where a lady’s maid has been found drowned in a secluded pool.
Major Vernon investigates above and below stairs in the great house, assisted by Lord Rothborough’s eldest daughter, Lady Charlotte. When a quantity of valuable jewellery is found missing, the cause of the dead maid’s death only becomes more mysterious.
Meanwhile, when his patient dies in his arms after confiding a secret, Carswell is drawn into baffling intrigues involving the government-in-exile of the dead man’s homeland, the Caribbean island of Santa Magdalena. And strangest of all, Dona Blanca, the widow of the president, seems to know exactly who Felix is.
Over the course of the summer, Vernon and Carswell together doggedly search for the truth behind these troubling events, but their determination leads to a shocking personal tragedy for both of them, one which that will force them to reassess their lives and their careers, and leave them changed forever.
From the grand hotels of a fashionable spa town to a sordid illegal dog fight; from back-stair intrigues in a great country house to political conspiracies and fencing matches, The Shadowcutter sees the welcome return of early Victorian detectives, Major Giles Vernon and Felix Carswell.