Katriona Sparrow, dubbed the Mad Heiress by London’s upper class, is the deceptively fragile ward of a foreign nobleman. She can’t stand making small talk with strangers, but she’s unparalleled when it comes to deciphering the dead.
On a routine investigation, something goes horribly wrong, leaving Katriona catatonic in an upscale hospital and a serial killer with an artistic bent stalking London’s most vulnerable.
Enter Anthea Garlant, a young witch and academic ostracized from polite society for traveling the world without a chaperone. She devises magical treatments to protect Katriona from the side effects of her abilities, but as she grows more and more attached to Katriona, her professional facade begins to slip.
Will they be able to stop the man who turns beautiful dead women into works of art before he turns his attention much closer to home?
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She was so beautiful that she looked as if she was only sleeping, but clearly she’d cried tears of blood. She was dressed in clothing that appeared expensive but was cheaply made; a poor girl wanting only for a day to live beyond her means. From far away, she seemed to wear pearls and sapphires. Up close, the pearls were her teeth, and the sapphires were her plucked-out eyes. And the golden sash around the waist of her plum-colored taffeta gown? It was made of hair. She also wore a heart-shaped locket, clearly her own. Although tarnished somewhat, and made of much cheaper material, it was of a similar design to Anthea’s, provoking an odd frisson of familiarity. Whatever our profession, whatever our station in life, we’re all women,Katriona mused as she crouched beside the corpse. And if one of us is in danger… then we all are.
“The gloves are made from his previous victim’s skin, by the way,” pointed out a constable. “At least, they’re the same color.”
The girl’s mouth had been filled with dirt; the sort of unremarkable dirt that could have come from anywhere in London. Some of it was smeared across her chin. In her lap, she held another girl’s head.
“Salome and the head of John the Baptist.” That came from Anthea, who was tilting her head at the scene.
“Sorry, what?” Inspector Claybrook looked up from the body.
“The sash, the gown… if you look at the pose and jewelry alone, it’s an exact replica of one of the paintings in the Louvre.” Before anyone asked her how she knew that, she added “When I’m in Paris, I go there often to clear my mind.”
“This is his art,” Katriona murmured thoughtfully. This woman would offer her another piece of the puzzle, she was sure of it.
“I’ll hold your gloves for you,” Anthea said in an undertone.
Katriona removed them and held them out with an almost imperceptible nod. Anthea transferred them to her reticule.
There were still other people around, but for all intents and purposes, it had become just Katriona and the corpse. This small, powerful figure was radiating something inexplicable–still delicate, but somehow frightening. Her eyes were so blue that they could drown a man.
She touched the decapitated head first. I had a dog. I had a dog. Who will feed my dog?
“I’m sorry, but that’s all I can get. She’s been dead for days. She’s well-preserved, but I can’t read her. I suspect it’s from the same woman we found the other day, but…” If I died, she thought, I’d be so afraid for Sentinel. She felt closer than ever to this dead girl, the one whose name she did not know.
“At least it was only a whore,” a constable murmured behind her. Instantly Katriona wanted to tear off his head and eat him whole.
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Kayla Bashe is a first-year student at the college that inspired the X-Mansion. She absolutely adores dogs of all sizes and the Rocky Horror Picture Show.