The Five Step Plan

Written by Elizabeth Welsford
Review by Audrey Braver

The Five Step Plan is a medical marvel. In 1829, less than ten years before Victoria takes the throne, society is beginning to tighten up its morals. The hero is Dr. William Whitcraft, who specializes in the treatment of women for hysteria. It was a lucrative practice even before William’s mistress, Mrs. Minnoch, a well-known madam among society’s blades, shows him how to effect the treatment in a quarter of an hour or less by using only five steps. This treatment, known as pelvic massage, has become famous for the relief of hysteria among married women, particularly women whose husbands have no interest in marital relations, such as Mrs. Pannade. Despite his success, all is not smooth sailing for Dr. Whitcraft. He is troubled by Dr. Marplot, an archetypical villain, who manages to steal Whitcraft’s patients, as well as credit for the Five Step Plan, which he is now calling “The Marplot Maneuver,” and also Whitcraft’s fiancée, Miss Reave, a spendthrift with other vices. Just as all seems over for Whitcraft, it is Mrs. Minnoch and Mrs. Pannade to the rescue.

Elizabeth Welsford has written an amusing, tongue-in-cheek tale, using an actual medical treatment, once used for a sad condition of women, as a plot point. There is a veritable parade of characters, some with prosaic names worthy of Charles Dickens. It is also a well-structured mystery. The Five Step Plan is a light, lovely adventure. A good summer read.