Symptoms Of Death

Written by Paula Paul
Review by Steve Lewis

The time period of this first mystery solved by Dr. Alexandra Gladstone is never stated, but it’s definitely England, and a reference to “the queen” makes it appear to be early Victorian. Assisting the lady doctor is Nicholas Forsythe, a London barrister, who is attracted to her unconventional mind, not to mention her other more visual attributes.

Dead is Lord Dunsford, a man of some wealth and (as is gradually revealed) secret vices, such as philandering, blackmail and–more I cannot say. Accused is a maid who threatened him the same evening with a knife. A quick hanging would come as certain relief to many in the earl’s own social circles. Alexandra’s investigations come at some risk to herself, and sightings of the dead man walking keep the common folk at alarm as well as the pot boiling. Good use is made of the country village setting, and the dangers of childbirth in the days before simple blood transfusions are described in touching fashion.

In comparison to Agatha Christie’s puzzle plots, however, this one fails to match up. Dr. Gladstone’s observations, disregarded by those who believe medicine is no profession for a lady, make it make it extremely unlikely that the maid is the killer, and there are too few others who could be.