In January 1919 tank bursts in Boston's North End, flooding the neighborhood with molasses. When a woman is found murdered in the wreckage, Frances Glessner Lee asks her old friend, medical examiner Dr. George Magrath to help exonerate a young serviceman. He's a resident at the home for returning soldiers on Beacon Hill that Fanny has come from Chicago to manage. Frustrated by her lack of education and skills, she wants to clear the young man's name and find the killer. Will creation of a miniature crime scene lead to the truth? It's the best she can do.
This is the first in a series of fictional stories roughly based on the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. Over twenty miniature crime scenes were used from the 1940s to the present to train police detectives. Set in the 1920s, these stories imagine Frances Glessner Lee working with Dr. George Magrath to learn about "legal medicine" as forensic science was known at the time. Working with Magrath provided the foundation for the miniatures for which Frances Glessner Lee has become known as the Mother of Forensic Science.