The Formula for Murder
by Carol McCleary
Review by Mel Jacob
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765328694
Date: 17 July 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The redoubtable Nellie Bly continues her adventures in the Formula for Murder as she seeks the killer of her friend Hailey McGuire, a protégé of hers. Stalked from the beginning, Nellie refuses to stop seeking answers as to what happened to her friend. Her investigations lead to more deaths and put her in danger.
The body the police show Nellie is impossible to identify. She notices a head wound, and the ring she gave Hailey is missing. Despite a suicide note, Nellie rejects the police insistence on suicide as the cause of death. She decides to trace Hailey's movement before she died.
Those who observed Hailey prior to her death claim she did not appear depressed. In Hailey's room, Nellie finds a small diary of hers, but a mugger steals it. That does not deter her search for what happened to her friend.
She believes Hailey was working on a story concerning a doctor and a dead noblewoman. A visit to Bath and the spa where the doctor worked confirms her suspicions. Handsome and talented, the doctor has wealthy patients who fall under his spell, and some of them helped fund his research, hoping for an elixir of youth. The doctor has disappeared.
At the spa, Nellie glimpses a dark carriage belonging to a person of wealth and possibly a titled woman, antagonizes the doctor's partner, and encounters a London gang member. Discovering that Hailey sent her luggage ahead toward Dartmoor, Nellie follows.
Nellie made many celebrity friends when she traveled around the world in seventy-two days. They come to aid in her current search with information and other assistance. Those who like a little romance will enjoy Nellie's banter and fling with the young H.G. Wells.
The novel follows the formula used in the two earlier novels featuring Nellie. McCleary fills the narrative with facts, figures, and descriptions of the notable people, sights, and sites Nellie sees. She also includes details on the variety of celebrities who befriend and assist Nellie in her investigations. At times, some of this strains credibility, but all in good fun.
The climax and solution to the puzzle will satisfy most readers. Nellie is a Victorian, but not a prude. Language is mild and no overt sex scenes occur. Earlier titles in the series include the The Alchemy of Murder and the The Illusion of Murder.