The Bone Garden
This story begins in present-day Boston, where Julia Hamill is newly divorced. While working in the overgrown garden of her new home, she discovers a body, which turns out to be that of a woman who had been murdered long ago.
The story then switches to 1830s Boston. At that time, medical schools were in need of bodies to use for dissection and the study of anatomy. Because none were legally available, a lucrative black market in cadavers developed, supplied by men (resurrectionists) who stole the bodies of the newly deceased from their graves. Young Norris Marshall, a poor farmer’s son, is attending medical school and supporting himself by working as a resurrectionist. A series of brutal murders has taken place, and the police think they could have been committed by a medical student. Suspicion falls on Norris. He teams up with Rose Connelly, a young Irish seamstress whose sister recently died of childbed fever after giving birth at the medical school. Norris and Rose have both seen the killer. Rose is also desperate to keep her infant niece and solve the mystery of the baby’s paternity. They are aided in their efforts by young Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., who is also attending medical school.
Back in the present, Julia, who is disturbed by her discovery, receives a call from the cousin of the woman who previously owned the house. He has boxes of his cousin’s papers and thinks they may contain some clues to the mystery of the bones.
I enjoyed the descriptions of the state of the medical profession at the time and the insight into Holmes’s development of his theory of the contagiousness of puerperal fever. The story is very suspenseful, if somewhat grisly.