Review: A Dissection of Murder by Felicity Young

Title: A Dissection of Murder {Dr Dody McCleland #1}

Author: Felicity Young

Published: Harper Collins March 2012

Synopsis: A woman. A doctor. A beastly science.  At the turn of the twentieth century, London’s political climate is in turmoil, as women fight for the right to vote. Dody McCleland has her own battles to fight. As England’s first female autopsy surgeon, she must prove herself as she also proves that murder treats everyone equally… After a heated women’s rights rally turns violent, an innocent suffragette is found murdered. When she examines the body, Dody is shocked to realise that the victim was a friend of her sister – fueling her determination to uncover the cause of the protester’s suspicious death. For Dody, gathering clues from a body is often easier than handling the living – especially Chief Detective Inspector Matthew Pike. Pike is looking to get to the bottom of this case but has a hard time trusting anyone – including Dody. Determined to earn Pike’s trust and to find the killer, Dody will have to sort through real and imagined secrets. But if she’s not careful, she may end up on her own examination table.

Status: Read from February 23 to 24, 2012 — I own a copy { Courtesy Harper Collins Australia}

My Thoughts:

Against the backdrop of the suffragette movement in turn of the century Britain, Felicity Young introduces Dr Dody McCleland, the first female autopsy surgeon. Fresh from training with the preeminent surgeon of the time, she is eager to start her job at St Thomas Hospital but finds she must recuse herself from her very first case for the corpse is an acquaintance, a suffragette, who has died in a vicious riot sparked during a peaceful demonstration calling for women’s right to vote. Despite being only nominally concerned with the strident calls of the suffragettes, Dody allows herself to be convinced by her sister, Florence – an avid supporter of the cause- to investigate the autopsy findings. It becomes obvious that Lady Catherine Cartwright was savagely murdered and a member of the police force is suspected to be to blame.

As the first book in a new series, Young takes time to establish the historical and social backdrop of the book, having chosen quite a unique era in which to set A Dissection of Murder. The turn of the century was a period of budding social change, as evidenced by the suffragette movement, as well as being a period of emerging medical competency and forensic science and I love that Young has chosen to combine the two. Though I am not generally keen on historical fiction, yet a fan of the crime genre, particularly forensic and medical mysteries, I am surprised at how intriguing I found both aspects of the novel. The mystery behind the cause of Lady Cartwrights death is well plotted though it does drift a little as a central plot as Young is distracted by grounding the series, but that is to be expected in the first book of a series.

Dody McCleland proved to be a surprise, I was expecting her to be a stalwart feminist, intimately involved in the cause, having fought to become an autopsy surgeon against social convention. However it is Dody’s younger sister, Florence, who is militant, and Dody vaguely supportive in principal, but uninterested in becoming actively involved. Daughters of wealthy, ‘bohemian’ parents the McCleland sisters are strong-willed women but with different approaches to life. Even though Dody has taken an unconventional path she wants only to use her interests and skills to do the job that fascinates her. While she is concerned about injustice, it is her intellectual curiosity that drives her rather than the passion in this case.
Chief Detective Inspector Matthew Pike of New Scotland Yard is in charge of the investigation into the cause of the riot and Lady Cartwright’s death. A principled man he refuses to allow his superiors to sweep the matter under the carpet, despite not being particularly sympathetic to the suffragette movement.
The interaction between Pike and Dody is enjoyable and though there is a frisson of romantic interest, that the relationship is complicated by the social expectations, opinions and conflicts of the time, adds an additional layer of interest.

While I hope that the next book concentrates a little more on Dody’s role in forensic autopsy, as she did not have the opportunity to do so in A Dissection of Murder, I am very impressed by this debut series. The concept is unique, the scope for development is wide and the characters are appealing. Felicity Young has earned herself a fan and I can’t wait for the next installment.

Available To Purchase

Australia: BoomerangBooks I Booktopia I Readings I Select a Retailer

International – Pre Order : @Amazon  I @BookDepository as The Anatomy of Murder published by Berkley Trade

Alternate Cover

13 thoughts on “Review: A Dissection of Murder by Felicity Young

  1. I love books that feature social change…and this one definitely sounds like it does that, while still giving the reader suspense and a glimpse of the world of forensics.

    Thanks for the great review.


  2. I probably wouldn’t have ordinarily given this book much thought. But you’ve definately got me thinking about it. It sounds like it is set in a really interesting era and setting and i like reading about strong, intelligent women in historical fiction. Thanks for your review Shelleyrae!


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