Monday, April 16, 2012

The Anatomy of Death-Felicity Young

The Anatomy of Death

Felicity Young

Berkley, May 1 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780425247297

Dr. Dody McCleland is the first female autopsy surgeon as few women practice medicine in England let alone have the dead as patients. Ironically, in spite of her unusual vocation, she and her sister Florence disagree on how to obtain women’s rights. Florence prefers showy demonstrations by her Bloomsbury Division of the Women’s Suffrage and Political Union while Dody believes methodical proof of competency is the better method.

New Scotland Yard Superintendent Shepherd and DCI Pike arrive at St. Thomas’ Mortuary after a rally led by Florence and others turn violent; a death occurred. However, due to a conflict of interest Dody is unable to conduct the autopsy of the victim because Catherine Cartwright is a close friend of her sibling. Still Dody examines the corpse and concludes someone beat Catherine to death. She quietly informs Pike, who detests brute force against those that are weaker. He investigates while Shepherd wants him removed from the department in order to close the case.

This is an entertaining historical mystery that deftly merges the turn of the twentieth century suffragettes’ movement with the early days of forensic detecting. Dody is a super protagonist as she breaks into an all-male field while fabulous Florence the rebel with a cause plots rallies over tea. Although the whodunit is cleverly devised, that taut plot feels secondary to the salad days of women’s liberation.

Harriet Klausner

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