Christine Trent’s ‘A Murderous Malady’ [EXCERPT]

Florence Nightingale

When a murderer arrives in London, Florence Nightingale is on the case in Christine Trent’s A Murderous Malady.
(Photo courtesy Boston Public Library, Flickr)


I love a good old-fashioned mystery. There’s nothing more exciting than using my little grey cells to solve a crime, as Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot would say. I particularly enjoy when an author turns a historical figure into a sleuth, blending fiction and fact to create a story that simply jumps off the page. That’s exactly what Christine Trent has done with the legendary Florence Nightingale. In A Murderous Malady, she proves she’s just as effective at catching a villain as she is at healing the sick. We hope you enjoy this exclusive excerpt! —J&H


I had hired Nurse Lambert last year after firing several other nurses on my staff. I had been glad to find a woman in her thirties, as younger applicants could sometimes be too flighty for the work of nursing. Lambert came from a modest background, and her unfortunate visage ensured she was not likely to attract a suitor. She had a purpled, lumpy birthmark running down the right side of her face, from the corner of her right eye to a sharp point below her chin. She attempted to distract attention from it with very strange hairstyles and even stranger hair caps.

The inmates didn’t mind her, though. In fact, I think it made them feel better to be cared for by someone they saw as being in an even more pitiful state than they were themselves.

Lambert might be a bit pitiful, but she was dedicated to her work and I liked her immensely. I hoped to one day convince her that she could be as satisfied with nursing as she might have been in the marriage that would never materialize for her.

As it also wouldn’t for me.

“Thank you both,” I said, expressing my gratitude with a smile. I issued other instructions for the day, then left Harris and Lambert to check on their inmates and prepare some food and supplies for the two families while I spoke to Charlie Lewis about the ivy and visited John Wesley once more. He hardly acknowledged my presence, as he was completely enthralled with his little red squirrel, which he had eating berries from his open palm.

Satisfied that the Establishment was running smoothly for the day, I left for my visit at Middlesex Hospital. It was in Mortimer Street, a mere half-mile walk from the Establishment. I decided the exercise would be beneficial for me, and I made my way there with my head down, ignoring the noise and busyness of London as I considered what needed to happen after my visit.

After the nurses and I visited the Reeves and the Maddoxes, I wanted Mary to go with me to the Lion Brewery to talk with the owner of that establishment. And of course there was a list of hospital supplies that needed to be ordered, and I must ask Charlie Lewis to figure out what window Dash had come through to see if there was a nest of them outside. I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I almost didn’t notice Middlesex Hospital in the near distance. It startled me that I could have been so lost in thought, for the hospital was a magnificent structure, with two wings on either end that gave it a U shape facing the road. Dominating each wing was an enormous Palladian window made up of dozens of panes. Elegant fringed draperies were swept back in an artful way to frame the windows.

What elegance these inmates must enjoy, I thought.

As I turned to go through the black iron gates, which surrounded the three-story property, I became instantly aware of a familiar stench. And then I saw it all.

Lining the lawn on either side of the walkway to the front door were dozens of people, some on good hospital linens and some on rags. All of them were pitifully weak as they attempted sleep, cried out in pain, or relieved themselves in overflowing slop buckets. A few orderlies walked helplessly from patient to patient, offering ladles of soup or water from buckets.

Now I thoroughly understood why Dr. Goodfellow had wanted me immediately. Death had set up camp here and was not likely to leave anytime soon.

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Christine Trent's A MURDEROUS MALADY

Crooked Lane Books


The London summer of 1854 is drawing to a close when a deadly outbreak of cholera grips the city. Florence Nightingale is back on the scene marshaling her nurses to help treat countless suffering patients at Middlesex Hospital as the disease tears through the Soho slums. But beyond the dangers of the disease, something even more evil is seeping through the ailing streets of London.

It begins with an attack on the carriage of Florence’s friend, Elizabeth Herbert, wife to Secretary at War Sidney Herbert. Florence survives, but her coachman does not. Within hours, Sidney’s valet stumbles into the hospital, mutters a few cryptic words about the attack, and promptly dies from cholera. Frantic that an assassin is stalking his wife, Sidney enlists Florence’s help, who accepts but has little to go on save for the valet’s last words and a curious set of dice in his jacket pocket. Soon, the suspects are piling up faster than cholera victims, as there seems to be no end to the number of people who bear a grudge against the Herbert household.

Now, Florence is in a race against time—not only to save the victims of a lethal disease, but to foil a murderer with a disturbingly sinister goal—in A Murderous Malady.

Christine Trent

Christine Trent


In addition to the new Florence Nightingale mysteries, Christine Trent is the author of the Lady of Ashes historical mysteries, about a Victorian-era undertaker, as well as the author of three other historical novels.

Christine’s novels have been translated into Turkish, Polish, and Czech. She writes from her two-story home library, where she lives with her husband, five precocious cats, a large doll collection, entirely too many fountain pens, and over 4,000 cataloged books.

Visit her home on the Web at, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Goodreads.

By Christine Trent
336 pp. Crooked Lane Books. $26.99

HFVBT_Logo_Banner TwitterPurchase A Murderous Malady at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

A Murderous Malady is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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