Sunday, November 4, 2012
Crime Fiction Alphabet: Letter Y
I have signed up for a second year of The Alphabet in Crime Fiction, a community meme sponsored by Mysteries in Paradise. Each week she'll be expecting participants to produce a post featuring a mystery/crime novel or novelist related to that week's letter. The end is in sight--only two more letters to go! This week we're on the Letter Y. And Y is for Felicity Young, an Australian author who was born in Germany and educated in Britain. She and her family settled in Australia in 1976. She started in the mystery writing business with contemporary and this year began a new historical series.
The Anatomy of Death (aka A Dissection of Murder) is the first in this Victorian-era series which features Dorothy (Dody) McCleland, a young woman who has gone into the medical field at the turn of the twentieth century. Denied the chance to become a surgeon for the living (because of her sex), she trains as an autopsy surgeon and becomes England's first female doctor of this type. She has just returned to London from her studies in Scotland--all set to take up her post as an assistant to Bernard Spilsbury--Scotland Yard's autopsy surgeon--and is greeted at the train station with a note calling her to her very first case. The Superintendent of Police is none too pleased to find that his new "man" is a female surgeon, but Spilsbury is out of town and unavailable, so he lays the facts before her.
What started as a peaceful protest in support of voting rights for women turned very ugly indeed when roughs and toughs from the dock area were incited to assault the marchers. Three women are struck down in the violent attack--including one of the prominent suffragettes. Dody must excuse herself from the autopsy because the woman, Lady Catherine Cartwright, was a friend of her sister. However, when it is rumored that the death was actually from police brutality and it seems that the incident is going to be swept under the carpet, Dody begins working on her own to determine whether the rumors are true. She earns the trust of Chief Inspector Pike--who has his own reasons for looking into the events of that day--and the two of them gather clues to determine whether a police officer let his emotions get the better of him or if the killer is closer to home.
This is an interesting start to a very promising historical series. The time period is an intriguing one--right at the turn of the century and watching the fight for women's rights. There are so many things that women today take for granted now that were just being thought of and fought for. Dody is a pretty strong character--although it is evident that there is much room for growth. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her and look forward to future installments. I found her and the other central characters believable and interesting. The mystery itself had a nice twist and it was pretty fairly clued. A solid opening and worth three stars.