What is better than a work of historical fiction in which the history is well-researched and powerfully presented? .... Nothing, I tell you! Young's first mystery novel about Dr. Dorothy McCleland and Chief Inspector Matthew Pike is a gem.
Dody is not an entirely original leading lady as far as personality and moral fiber goes, but Young has managed to present her as a heroine we can both enjoy hearing from and admire. Her quick mind and capable demeanor give us the strength we like to see from female sleuths in historical mysteries during time periods of male supremacy. She offers a surprise, though, in that while she stands for women's rights, she is not subject to the fervor of her fellow suffragettes (her sister for example). While the story revolves around an incident involving women's suffrage, it is not driven by any sort of personal vendetta on Dody's part. Her concern is establishing herself as a doctor and keeping her more demonstratively-minded sister out of prison. It is only because of an accident of circumstance that she becomes involved in the case of a suspiciously dead suffragette at all. Dody's an interesting woman in a time when history generally cataloged women as either radical protestors or "properly-minded" housewives. Her intelligence and levelheadedness makes her an ideal partner for the emotionally scarred, traditionalist Chief Inspector Pike. Each works to open the others eyes on issues important to them and they eventually develop a rapport which serves to allow them to put their heads together and work out the tangle of clues.
The history behind this story is a volatile topic and leads to some tense moments. I would warn those considering picking this book up for reading that there are a few scenes which may be considered disturbing. Due to Dody's career as a doctor of forensic science it shouldn't be much of a surprise that she performs autopsies, however, some of the description might be considered mildly to moderately graphic by some. In addition, there is a scene in which forced feeding is described - a political response to incarcerated suffragettes who went on hunger strike. Nothing in this book really crosses any lines as far as I'm concerned, but it is not for the faint-hearted. The inclusion of these activities and historical details add both accuracy and power.
Although it has the occasional editorial mishap as far as word order or grammar goes, the writing is fluid - eloquent when needed and at all times coherent. Young has successfully drawn me into Dody and Pike's story and I look forward to continuing the series. Bravo!
With Anatomy of Death Young proved that she could compose a well-researched and utterly absorbing historical suspense novel that holds the promise of a series worth reading. This, her second in the Dr. Dody McCleland series, has affirmed that the promise of this author's first success is more than capable of carrying itself through. Antidote to Murder continues with the realistic tone of its predecessor and draws us into the social mores of Edwardian London once more. Again, a serious aspect of the time period is brought forth for examination: the difficult - and sometimes impossible - choice of women who faced an unwanted pregnancy, families that became too expensively large, and the life-threatening options available to the desperate.
Dody's career and life are both at stake as a botched illegal abortion outrages society and anonymous letters point the incriminating finger at her. An easy and vulnerable target, Dody refuses to throw in the towel and allow a murderer to get away with this bloody business ... especially as more unwanted pregnancies lead young women to unwittingly seek his assistance. As the body count rises so does the tension as our leading lady struggles to prove her innocence to the unforgiving and unbelieving masculine superiors to whom she has been working to prove her capability in the "beastly science." Simultaneously, the dashing Chief Inspector Pike works to uncover a German spy operating under the cover of a risque theater troupe. (We all get to appreciate the cameo appearance of none other than the infamous historical figure of Mata Hari ... though the makings of her fame do not actually take place in this book, but later on in history) While Dody and Pike begin the story fighting their separate battles the clues eventually lead them together once more, finding a common foe in the one leaving the bodies of reluctant mothers-to-be behind.
Once again, Young has delved into the murkier waters of this particular period of English history and spun us a fascinating tale. The main characters continue to be presented as strong and realistic individuals living in a time of great change, and the supporting cast (particularly the wonderful Florence!) are a treat. The blossoming relationship between Dody and Pike is well crafted and sweet. I can't wait to see what Young pulls out of the hat next. Bravo!