Book #25 of 2016: Doctor Death by Lene Kaaberbol

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From the New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Boy in the Suitcase, a gripping historical thriller and poignant coming-of-age story set in nineteenth-century France.

Madeleine Karno is an ambitious young woman eager to shatter the confines of her provincial French town. Driven and strong headed, Madeleine is set apart by her unusual occupation: assisting her father, Dr. Albert Karno, in his job as a forensic doctor.

The year is 1894, and a young girl is found dead on the snowy streets of Varbourg. Dr. Karno is called in to determine the cause of her death, but before he can examine the body, the girl’s family forbids the autopsy from taking place. The only anomaly he manages to find is in the form of a mite in her nostril. Shortly after, several other dead bodies are discovered throughout the city, and Madeleine, her father, and the city commissioner must use the new science of forensic evidence to solve the mysterious cases before they all become the next victims of a deadly disease – or of a heinous murderer.

 I found this book through my library’s eaudio system. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I love listening to books. I do it in the car and when I’m doing chores. It keeps me awake during those god awful hours of driving and it keeps me going during the boring labor.

I really liked this book. The mystery kept me thinking of different things and I didn’t realize who the killer was until near the very end. The book isn’t police procedural, but could be considered as such for the time period it is set in. I found the book to be more about mankind and the struggle for freedom of all sorts.

Madeleine Karno, our heroine and narrator, is an intellectual. She would rather look inside a microscope and draw out her specimens than to draw out sceneries. Instead of needlepoint, she would rather use that needle and thread to sew up a person. Miss Karno is a woman above her time. She values logic over love and finds her phyiscal needs to be distracting and almost debilitating. Despite this, she is a feminine woman. She is strong and the circumstances of the mystery is what gives her that nudge into acceptance in the scientific field.

Well… almost acceptance. At least to a point where she may have her father allowing her new passion. She may not have the acceptance from the greater public though.

This fight of nature and nuture combined with feminine and masculine is seen throughout the book. I could probably write a mini essay on how this book is not only the beginnings of a feminist movement, but also solidifies the idea that both genders are equally strong even in their weaknesses.

Okay, the writing is good. Which is a must because so much could have been lost in translation, but I didn’t feel like it was. I was pulled into the scenes and I was seeing what Karno and others were seeing. I was experiencing the passion of the young girl who started it all. I could see the motivations of the killer, though I feel that there is clear mental stability issues. I was upset to see that the second book wasn’t translated in English yet.

If anyone knows when or how I can find out, please tell me!

In all, the book feels like what I’d suspect the time period felt like for a woman who wanted more than to be barefoot and pregnant. Actually, it hit home even for me today in that regard. The mystery was good and made me cringe at the ideas that had popped in my head (so glad it wasn’t the case). I would recommend it.

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