On a sweltering summer night, a woman dies mysteriously in her hospital bed in New York City. A thousand miles away, amateur sleuth and Midwestern University professor Beth Austin prepares for a class on The Mystery of Edwin Drood, when her mother drops a bombshell; Fifty years ago, she was involved in a similar Dickensian love triangle and unsolved murder at the University of Chicago. As Beth soon discovers, it's the stuff of great fiction. A gorgeous coed was killed, no suspect was found, and her mother's once-tight college clique dissolved. Each had a motive for murder, now concealed in a morass of lies. Then the killer strikes again in New York, half a century later. Now Beth must re-create the scene of the crime to see if, as in Bleak House, beauty is its own punishment. To learn what her own mother cannot, or will not, tell her. And to risk her own life as the killer, determined to keep old secrets buried, prepares to strike again.