Although GR calls this the 3rd book in the series, it isn't it is really the 2nd.
When Bridget 'Bridie' Sullivan goes missing, no one believes that anything untoward has happened to her. She is a bit of a good time girl and everyone thinks she just ran off with her ex-con boyfriend. Everyone, that is, except her mother. Mrs. Fallon knows that Bridie wouldn't just run off, but no one will believe her. Desperate she turns to Mrs. Hewitt who is known to have a compassionate heart. And Bridie worked as a mill girl in one of the Hewitt family's mills.
Feeling sorry for the woman, Mrs. Hewitt does ask Nell to ask around and see what she can find out about Bridie's disappearance. Because Nell is a governess, she has the ability to move about that neither lower servants nor upper class ladies can lay claim to.
Nell agrees and as she does go in search of Birdie, Nell becomes convinced that Harry Hewitt, the ne'er do well middle son of the Hewitt clan is somehow involved. Harry and Nell have a hostile relationship. He despises Nell because she accused him of murder in the previous book Still Life with Murder. Nell despises Harry because he represents the very worst part of the wealthy upperclass. Harry is profligate with a very destructive lifestyle. Yet his worst excesses are always smoothed away by his father's money and he never feels any remorse for anything he does because he is never required to answer for it.
And Nell learns that Harry, who routinely slept with the mill girls he supervised, had been especially enamored of the beautiful Bridie.
But Harry has an unlikely champion. His older brother Will does not think Harry is capable of harming a woman. So he teams up with Nell to help find out what really happened to the woman.
This is a wonderful follow up to the previous book. All the things that I enjoyed in the first book -- the characters, the setting, the structure of the plot -- are all evident in this one as well.
I especially like that the story isn't very predictable. Just as the previous book, Ryan leads you on and allows you to make assumptions that she then cheerfully smashes with a nice curveball. I didn't guess the bad guy in this one either!
I am also enjoying the progress of the relationship between Nell and Will. On a professional level the two of them are creating a nice, albeit unconscious working relationship. With her background as a nurse and Will profession as a doctor (and his fascination with what we now know as forensics) and their knowledge of anatomy, physiology and even pathology give the conclusions they draw a little more credibility than if they had been random amateur sleuths.
On a personal level it is obvious the two of them are attracted to each other and are very much sublimating any less that platonic feelings. Will gently teases Nell and there is an undercurrent of courting to it. But Will is a man with some very large demons to slay and he has no intentions of becoming involved with Nell. For her part, Nell does not reciprocate -- at least not verbally. And Ryan does such a great job of parceling out pieces of Nell's past in a very deliberate fashion so that when certain revelations occur in this book they fill Will (and the reader!) with some dismay.
But then the book ends so --- sigh. I had to hop out of bed and grab the next one.
I am kicking myself that I let these books languish in a box for the last three years.