“By medicine life may be prolonged, yet death will seize the doctor too” – William Shakespeare
Author Jane Bennett Munro’s latest novel ‘Death by Autopsy: A Toni Day mystery’ is the fourth book in the Toni Day series of mystery books. As the self serving title suggests, it tells the tale of Toni Day, a pathologist by profession who takes it upon herself to solve a couple of mysterious deaths when she is accused of causing death to a patient, death by autopsy. Beulah Mae Pritchard was the woman Toni was supposed to conduct an autopsy on but when she wakes up alive on the table; it sets in motion a series of events that spells trouble for all those involved in the case. Accused of malpractice and being sued, Toni works hard to get her name cleared while also dealing with multiple threats, including one from the actual killers of Beulah and her husband Dwayne.
Now although this is the fourth book the titular protagonist Toni Day makes an appearance in, Death by Autopsy is the first book I’ve read in the series. But that didn’t stop me and I’m sure it won’t stop you either from enjoying this book as a standalone mystery novel. All the characters have been developed in such a manner that you will get to know each person intimately through the course of the book. Toni, her husband Hal, mother Fiona, step father Nigel and a host of secondary characters, including the antagonists are all real and life like and this helps in connecting with their story and emotions. And although it takes advantage of a few fictional liberties to move the narrative forward, it still turns out to be a highly credible and believable story.
This is a medical mystery novel that is thoroughly researched but that’s no surprise considering the author is a board certified pathologist in real life. She takes you through the day to day happenings in the life of a pathologist and lets you know that the job isn’t as glamorous or easy as it’s portrayed on television. And you really got to have a hard stomach to sit through some of the passages as she literally dissects the autopsy procedures, in graphic detail too and it isn’t recommended for the squeamish readers. The strength of the research can be felt in other areas too when she’s discussing about the irrigation company, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary as well. And unlike a lot of other books in this genre, Jane hasn’t tried to dumb it down to reach a wider audience. And I appreciate this because even if you can’t follow all the medical terms and procedures at least you feel that the characters uttering these lines know what they are doing, making the proceedings seem more real.
Toni Day is a woman of strong principles who is intelligent, honest, energetic and exuberant. She has got great attention to detail and the tenacity to follow up on even the hardest of leads, two qualities that any successful detective or sleuth must possess. The first person narrative will take the reader into the thick of the action and the author has managed to make this work throughout the length of the book without it ever becoming monotonous or stale. She also has a great mix of secondary characters who will keep you entertained with their quirks and dysfunctional interpersonal interactions.
A lot of the story moves forward on the strength of some nicely written rapid fire dialogues spoken between the various characters, this also help in creating artificial urgency in the narrative. With almost every chapter ending on a cliff hanger note, you will be hard pressed not to finish the book in a single sitting.
Paperback: 268 pages
Publisher: iUniverse (October 7, 2014)