Founded in 1980
Ritu Mukerji, MD, Murder by Degrees: A Mystery, New York: Simon & Schuster 2023. ISBN 978-1-6680-1506-3
Reviewed by: Frederic Pachman, AHIP
December 5th, 2023
One of the best things about being a Librarian is getting advance information on new book releases, along with the advance reader copies. Full disclosure: reading the preview information and blurbs about this book pretty much had me hooked.
This is a great medical/detective mystery set in Philadelphia, just ahead of the Centennial Exposition of 1876. Dr. Lydia Weston is a professor and anatomist at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania who teams up with police detectives when one of her patients goes missing. Her amateur sleuthing alternately annoys or confounds the police, but always provides clues or revelations that advance their investigation. There is a lot of period medical activity on hospital wards and in clinics that will pique the medical professionals’ interest. For CSI fans the attention to detail during anatomy training and autopsies will keep them turning the pages.
The status of women physicians in the 1870’s is a theme throughout the novel and the author has showcased their unique perspectives amidst the ongoing challenges of their profession. I personally enjoyed her feel for the geography and neighborhoods of historic Philadelphia as the main character trekked across the city interviewing suspects and collecting clues. There are already plenty of aspects for any reader to track and then the author throws in snippets of poetry by Rossetti, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Browning and Whitman to supplement the clues.
Numerous plot twists keep you reading and reevaluating your personal theories as the story progresses. This was a delightful read that I savored over a rainy and dreary December weekend.
Author Ritu Mukerji MD has made good use of her medical training and historical research to present a top-notch period thriller. Will there be a next case for physician/detective Lydia Weston?