Blog Tour: The Wrong Sort to Die, Paula Harmon

Book Review: The Wrong Sort to Die, Paula Harmon

 

The Wrong Sort to Die, Paula Harmon

Mystery/Historical Fiction: The Wrong Sort to Die, Paula Harmon

Blog Tour 11/20/2020

 

Dr. Margaret Demeray is unusual. In 1910 London there were very few female medical doctors. Even fewer of these were coroners. Yet she works hard to be among the best in the city and her work has been recognized by her peers. She is asked to give a speech to a group of men about the damage to lungs caused by industrial pollution. They are hoping she will also make mention of some unusual cases that have recently come to her attention, cases where the lung damage was swift and severe.

 

“Fox” is also quite interested in some of these cases. A mysterious man investigating some of these deaths, he manages to show up in various places where Dr. Demeray is working or dining. Are these encounters truly coincidental? Or does Fox have another motive guiding his steps?

 

Paula Harmon weaves together mystery, historical fiction, and a bit of romance in this novel. She is not afraid to turn convention on its head. A female coroner in that time period, one who does not particularly need saving from anyone, is a fun change. (I have to admit, though, the theme to the Murdock Mysteries was playing in the back of my mind. For those unfamiliar with the show, it is a Canadian crime drama set in the very early 1900s featuring a Toronto detective who uses groundbreaking science to solve crimes, assisted by his friend/fiancee/wife who is the coroner.) Harmon is also quite willing to poke fun at the “male gaze” so many male writers use, with one of the characters seemingly unable to carry on a conversation with the doctor without staring significantly lower than her eyes. Both author and protagonist allow a feminist story to develop in a rigid society without becoming pedantic. Not an easy thing to accomplish, but done here with elan.

 

The Wrong Sort to Die is a very British story. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but some things that may have been obvious to my friends in the UK from the outset needed to be spelled out for me within the book. Fortunately Harmon is a kind author who realizes that her book may be read by Americans, so she does point out the class distinctions and power differentials that drive the narrative. In a culture where our national myth (if seldom the reality) is that anyone can become anything they choose to be, it was fascinating to realize that not long ago and not far away the choices one could make and the value one had to society were largely determined by the accidents of birth. Men were men, women were women, upper crust held their status by birthright and lower classes could not advance. I realize that is no longer as true in the UK as it once was–and that it is less true in the US than we like to believe. Still, Harmon manages to show us both how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go in the midst of a solid mystery.

 

A doctor who wants to be respected for her mind and hopes to find love for herself. An investigator who is quite interested in capturing the criminals and capturing a certain doctor’s attention. And a question of status and value in a stratified society. All of this makes for a rich novel that satisfies on many levels.

 

The Wrong Sort to Die, Paula Harmon banner The Wrong Sort to Die, Paula Harmon

Our thanks to Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Blog Tours for inviting us to participate and for giving us our copy of this book. Check out the other bloggers on this tour for more perspectives. The opinions here are solely those of Scintilla.

 

The Wrong Sort to Die, Paula Harmon

Book Review: The Wrong Sort to Die, Paula Harmon

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