Antidote to Murder

Written by Felicity Young
Review by B. J. Sedlock

Dr. Dody McCleland, England’s first woman autopsy surgeon, returns in this second book by Felicity Young. Opening in June 1911, less than six months after the end of the first novel, Dody throws herself into work at a community clinic for women after facing a setback with Chief Inspector Pike that cools their developing friendship.

Among her many patients is a young pregnant woman who is suffering from lead poisoning as a result of an attempt to end the pregnancy. Dody treats the lead poisoning, and in keeping with her conscience and the laws, counsels against further attempts to terminate the pregnancy. Days later, the girl is found dead from a botched abortion procedure. At an inquest into the death, an anonymous letter casts blame onto Dody, and she’s removed from her position as assistant to famed autopsy surgeon Dr. Bernard Spilsbury while the police investigate her involvement. Pike is conspicuously absent during this time, as he is, unbeknownst to Dody, working undercover investigating a Danish dancer thought to be a German spy.

As with her previous novel, Young deals with the timely – and controversial – issues of the day with nuance and thoughtfulness. The story’s brisk plot is punctuated with rich historical detail of early 20th-century London and Young balances emotional entanglement with cool procedural process. The romantic subplot is enticing and the overarching mystery original and interesting.

While an entertaining standalone novel, readers will get much pleasure by starting with The Anatomy of Death and following with this one. Both Dody and Pike evolve in their work and in their friendship and the results are deeply satisfying.