ANTIDOTE TO MURDER
BY FELICITY YOUNG, HARPERCOLLINS, $24.99.
This is number two in the Dr Dody McCleland mystery series by trained nurse and Western Australian sheep-farming mother of three, Felicity young. Well-heeled, 30-year-old spinster Dody is an assistant autopsy surgeon, the only medical position available to a woman in 1911, but gives her free time to a clinic for women set up in an empty building by a pioneering doctor. It is here and on the slab that young’s Crippin- cum-Sherlock Holmes underworld seeps out of the River Thames’ mist. Championing at the heels of the “rozzers” (cockney cops), our girl risks the gallows for the gap-toothed “dollymops” (prostitutes), the sickly babes in arms carried by gin-swigging mothers from cholera-struck dwellings and the simple scullery maids who are with child. And this is the crux of her tidy, well-knit read; the practice of birth control was illegal and uneducated attempts at abortion (washing soda) commonly resulted in nothing or, worse, death. Hell-bent on education, brave Dody wages her own dangerous war against an emerging era when sufragette sisters unhelpfully chanted, “Votes for women, chastity for men”, while the lurid stories in “shilling shockers” spelled fear.
Many thanks to Jennifer Byrne from the ABC’s First Tuesday Book Club.