Dr. Dorothy "Dody" McCleland is employed as a doctor at a women's hospital and has recently returned home after a studying forensics for one year in Edinburgh. A female doctor is rare enough in London in 1910, but one who has specialized to become an autopsy surgeon is unheard of. Dody wants to prove herself and is eager to do well the first time she is called to duty when the usual examiner is on holiday. Dody is asked to examine three female victims of a riot occurring during a women's suffrage march. Professional ethics make it impossible for Dody to perform the autopsy on the third victim; Lady Catherine Cartwright is an acquaintance and a close friend of Dody's suffragette sister Florence. However, Dody ends up getting involved anyway when it appears members of the police force may have had a hand in Catherine's death, and Dody want to make sure this appalling crime isn't covered up. She may have an ally in Detective Chief Inspector Matthew Pike of Scotland Yard. Although Pike isn't sympathetic to women seeking the vote, he is furious to think policemen may have assaulted some of the female marchers. In spite of their differences, this unlikely team found common ground and "worked for the same ends - the discovery of the truth."
Dody is an appealing character and is the best part about this book. I really admire Dody's tenaciousness in her life, career, and the investigation. Dody longs to be a bone surgeon, but that option is not an option for women at this time in history. Therefore, she furthers her studies in the only specialty open to her and then sets out to be the best she can be. She doesn't give up when facing challenges in her career and uses this same determination to find out the truth about Lady Catherine's death.
Dody comes from an unconventional family with servants dining at the same table as the family and calling each other by their first names as well as co-ed games of cricket after dinner. Their background helps explain how different Dody and Florence are from many women from this time period. Florence seems fairly self-centered at the beginning of the book, but she proves to have her sister's best interests at heart and gives Dody some very sound advice in the romance department which gained my respect.
I loved Dody, came to like Florence, and was very interested in the way Dody carries out the investigation using her knowledge of forensics. However, some of the political details in the book, including the storyline with the Irish terrorists, slows the pace of the story and takes away from the book as a whole. Unfortunately, Florence takes a liking to one of the terrorists, Derwent O'Neill, so he plays a much larger role in the book that I would have preferred. Although the actions of Derwent and his brother Patrick are related to the main plot, I just didn't enjoy this aspect of the book.
In a note at the end of the book, the author explains that some of the events in the book are based upon true events, and the character of Dody is based on one of the author's ancestors, which makes the story even more interesting to me. Although there are parts of the book I didn't enjoy, the promise of such a unique character intrigues me enough that I would definitely read more about Dody if there are follow-up books to this novel. Readers who enjoy Anne Perry may want to give this book a try.
This review was originally written for The Season EZine. The book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.