In 19th century New York a young woman, born under less than auspicious circumstances, makes a living in a male-dominated profession-as a resurrectionist. Cora Lee and her alter-ego Jacob know how to find the best marks-the subjects with the most interesting anatomic anomalies that will draw top dollar from local medical schools and museums, once they die that is.
Cora would never help someone along to the grave just to earn a fee; she knows all too well that if her secret got out, her own corpse would be a very profitable commodity. Unfortunately, it seems some of her competition is not nearly as scrupulous. Several of her cultivated future marks go missing, only to turn up dead from unnatural causes, and already stolen from the grave before Cora’s crew gets the chance.
Just as someone discovers the double life she has been leading, rumors of a girl with two hearts get out, and a museum of curiosities is willing to pay top dollar for the cadaver. Unfortunately, the girl with two hearts is real; she is not dead; and she is Cora. Will she become the next victim of the murderer/resurrectionist? Who else knows Cora’s secret? Who can she trust?
This story presents a murder mystery that is unique in both scope and subject. It contains some unusual elements, such as a brief chapter narrated by each victim-their final moments, their fears and regrets. These little chapters add additional shadowing to the story, which is told mostly from Cora’s point of view. While the victims share what they know at the end, and shortly thereafter, the reader is still left hanging to the very last chapters of the book to find the identity of the real killers.
Cora’s double identity, as a proper young lady who deals with doctors, medical schools and curators, as well as attending endless funerals to “scope out” the dig sites, and as her twin brother Jacob, a rough and tumble, rude, crude and unsavory character who leads the crew of grave robbers, manages to show both sides of her personality. Cora is strong but vulnerable; naïve and street-smart; romantic and hard all at once. The author has done an excellent job portraying this complex character, someone who has led a life most of us could only imagine.
Lydia Kang has obvious spent a great deal of time researching the time period and her character’s “profession,” as shown through her knowledge of period medical terminology and treatments, the street slang of the grave diggers, and esoteric knowledge of lifestyles and habits of the time.
I award this story 4.5 stars, and recommend it to any fans of Victorian-era mysteries, star-crossed romances, and strong female protagonists.