Murder by Degrees

S. & S. Oct. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781668015063. $27.99. M
DEBUT In 1875, Dr. Lydia Weston is a professor at Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia. She first met Anna Ward, a chambermaid working for the wealthy Curtis family, at a clinic. Although Lydia encouraged the young woman to further her education, she hasn’t seen her in three weeks. When Anna’s body is fished from the river, a suspected suicide, Lydia can’t believe it. Inspector Thomas Volcker doesn’t believe it either. Despite police reluctance to work with a woman, Lydia insists on helping with Anna’s autopsy and the case of her murder. Anna’s diary entries show a woman trying to better herself, but in the last weeks of her life those entries take a disturbing turn. As a woman who fights daily against male attitudes of superiority and who herself struggled to improve her conditions, Lydia is determined to find answers for Anna.
VERDICT On the surface, this debut by Mukerji, herself a medical doctor, appears to be a mystery about the death of a working-class servant, but it’s much more, as it examines women’s rights, social conditions, and medicine in Philadelphia just a decade after the Civil War. Fans of Maddie Day’s “Quaker Midwife” series will appreciate this detailed historical mystery.
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