The Dissection of Murder by Felicity Young

A quick rundown… The first of a new series featuring female doctor Dody McCleland, ground breaker of forensic science and crime solver.

Strengths: Wonderfully atmospheric of old London Town.

Weaknesses: A lot of topics covered – perhaps too many?

Why I read it: Looked interesting and combined crime and historical fiction.

Pages: 252 (ebook)

Published: 2012

Publisher: Harper Collins

Setting: England

Rating: 7 out of 10


The Dissection of Murder is the first in a new series of historical crime fiction written by an Australian author, Felicity Young. I can’t say that I’ve read a great deal of historical crime fiction (bar the Colleen McCullough Detective Carmine Delmonico mysteries), but it’s a genre I’m beginning to enjoy more and more. It’s lovely to see crime solved the ‘old-fashioned’ way before DNA, mobile phones and the internet.

This series should also be marked because of its ground-breaking protagonist. Dr Dody McCleland is a rare breed, a female doctor. Women doctors were unusual at the turn of the twentieth century, and could only often get work in the less desirable specialties. However, Dody’s interest is in autopsies and she’s trained with the best. But the police are suspicious of the new woman they are forced to cooperate with. Dody has her own problems when the suffragette she’s asked to autopsy is a friend of her sister’s. Was it a case of accidental death or something more sinister?

Dody is a calm, cool character with occasional flashes of passion. But the character I enjoyed reading the most about was Detective Matthew Pike – he is mysterious and multi-talented (think Dr House as a policeman). He is hiding all sorts of secrets regarding his past and status within the police, which I hope will be revealed in further books.

The mystery is fairly straightforward, with a rising climax towards the end when Dody does something rash (unusually for her). I felt that the suffragette movement took a definite back seat to the mystery and Dody’s career. This is not a book for learning details of the history of votes for women, although the information given is very well researched. The pace is fairly gentle, which made me divert my attention elsewhere at times, but my interest towards Detective Pike got the better of me. I’d like to hope the next book had a faster pace after the main characters have been established. I also liked that the storyline wasn’t bogged down in romance, which often occurs when a female is the lead character in a crime novel. There’s a mention of former suitors, but love is not the focus here, although there could be some predictable couplings later on.

This book is published in the US as The Anatomy of Death, which I thought was rather an interesting title. I actually prefer it to the Australian one!

A good book with the promise of better in the future.


4 thoughts on “The Dissection of Murder by Felicity Young

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  1. Agh, that’s a pet peeve of mine, when unnecessary romance is thrown into a plot – it does seem to be more common when there’s a feisty female lead, used as a way to show they also have a soft side. This certainly looks promising and I’ll definitely consider reading it, although I’m not hugely into historical fiction.

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