Recommendations of Crime & Mystery Books featuring Medicine

Our theme for this meeting of the Sydney Mechanic's School of Arts' Library crime and mystery book club was anything to do with medicine or caring for others in a vocational capacity. The subjects covered include nursing, social work, dentistry and doctors at sea.

Death Duty by Clare Littleford
Published in 2004, Death Duty is Clare Littleford’s second novel. It features Jo Elliott, a social worker in Nottingham, UK. Jo has recently broken up with her partner Alex, another social worker, and is going about her day when she is the victim of what is thought to be a mugging. She begins to suspect that the mugging is not a standalone event and that she is being stalked when small things begin to go wrong or are damaged. It is a slow burn story that focuses on Jo’s life, both personal and professional, especially a case she was involved in eight years earlier involving a problem family called the Metcalfes, the stress that she and her fellow social workers are coming under from an current inquiry following the death of a child in their care, and Jo’s recent break up with Alex.

The insight into social work is most probably spot on as Clare Littleford’s used to be a social worker. According to the Book Depository, Clare was born in Bedford in 1973, and ‘used to work at Nottingham City Council, in the housing department, before taking an MA in Writing at Nottingham Trent University. She then worked for a lottery-funded community development project in inner city Nottingham.’

Operation Doctors by Holly Roth
American crime writer, Holly Roth was born in Chicago after the First World War and died in 1964 after falling off a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea. Her body was never found. She wrote 24 spy and detective novels in 10 years, starting with her first novel in 1954, The Content Assignment. Roth began writing crime novels in 1957 with two novels featuring the British detective Medford. Operation Doctors is the second of those books. It is set on board a ship, off the European coast, and has a wide range of nationalities on board. It is centred around a young woman who is injured and loses her memory. One of the passengers is an American neurosurgeon and is the primary character solving the mystery. Medford the detective only features in the story in the second half. It is a slightly implausible story that is of its time. The cold war is just about a character in its own right. Roth is excellent at ratcheting up the tension and it is an interesting read.

Roth led an interesting life. The travelling her father did as part of his business, included his family, so she grew up seeing a lot of the world. She was married at age 20 and widowed the following year. She worked as a model as well as a writer for some American magazines. She wrote two of her novels under the name PJ Merrill and four as KG Ballard.

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie, I know, we could not get through a meeting without a recommendation that includes Agatha Christie. This is why she is the Queen of crime writing.  One, Two, Buckle My Shoe is a Hercule Poirot story that features the death of Poirot's dentist, Henry Morley. Morely was killed by a gunshot wound and it was officially found to be a suicide. However, Poirot does not believe this to be the case and he goes on the hunt for the killer. 

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen
American author,Tess Gerritsen is known for her series of novels featuring Boston Detective Jane Rizzoli and Medical Examiner Maura Isles (now a long running TV series, Rizzoli and Isles). Gerritsen is a qualified doctor who began writing when she was on maternity leave. she is now retired and writes full time. So she knows what she is writing about when it comes to the medical detail in her novels. In The Bone Garden Maura is working on finding out the mystery surrounding the remains of a woman discovered in the grounds of a home in rural Massachusetts. The story connects back to a previous tale of murder and cadaver trafficking in Boston in 1830. Gerritsen weaves both timelines and the two stories to a satisfying if gruesome conclusion. For lovers of crime who like quite a bit of detail in relation to the state of the body and subsequent medical findings.

Angel Without Mercy, Angel of Vengeance, Destroying Angel by Anthea Cohen
This series of 18 books which begins with Angel Without Mercy (1984) and ends with Better Dead (2005), features Agnes Carmichael, a nurse who uses accidental and not so accidental homicide as a way to right the wrongs in her world. Mean, nasty people are Agnes' victims, as she follows a code that could be compared to Jeff Lindsay's serial killer protagonist, Dexter Morgan. These novels turn the cosy British village crime novel on its head with a protagonist that acts on what most people feel about that person who deliberately drove over the neighbour's cat.  

Anthea Cohen, which is the pseudonoym for Doris Simpson, was born in 1913 and died in 2006.

Blood Work by Michael Connelly
Blood Work is the debut of retired FBI criminal profiler Terrell, 'Terry' McCaleb. While recovering from a heart transplant, Terry is drawn into the death of the person whose heart he received, which occurred during an unsolved convenience store robbery. This investigation takes him back to a previous case that involved a serial murderer called the 'code killer'. 

This is a typical Michael Connelly novel, a fast moving, plot driven thriller. It was made into a movie starring Clint Eastwood in 2002.