We are proud to announce that BookBrowse has won Platinum in the 2024 Modern Library Awards.

BookBrowse Reviews Murder by Degrees by Ritu Mukerji

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Murder by Degrees

A Mystery

by Ritu Mukerji

Murder by Degrees by Ritu Mukerji X
Murder by Degrees by Ritu Mukerji
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Oct 2023, 304 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
Buy This Book

About this Book



A rich evocation of life for a pioneering woman doctor in 19th-century Philadelphia who finds herself drawn into a complex murder case.

Lydia Weston is among the first wave of female physicians and professors in the United States. Dedicated to her work, she spends her days treating the sick and teaching the next generation of young doctors at Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania. Her routine is thrown into chaos, however, when the body of her patient and would-be friend, Anna Ward, is pulled from the river. Having somewhat taken Anna under her wing — introducing her to the wonders of literature and encouraging her desire to pursue education — Lydia feels a strong personal stake in the mystery of her death.

Though initial clues point to suicide, Lydia's expert autopsy skills uncover hints of foul play, sparking a murder investigation that will soon expose an intricate web of secrets and lies with implications that ripple throughout the wider community of Philadelphia. Determined to uncover the truth and gain justice for Anna, Lydia works closely with the police on the case despite the personal risk this brings. All the while, she fends off the sexism of patients and fellow doctors alike as she strives to prove herself a qualified and capable physician.

Two major threads run parallel through the entirety of Murder by Degrees: Lydia's day-to-day experiences as a woman doctor, as she is forced to continuously demonstrate her worth regardless of her clear qualifications and skill; and the mystery surrounding Anna's death. It would be easy for one to steal focus and the other to feel like an afterthought, but author Ritu Mukerji pays equal attention to each. As a result, both are developed and intriguing enough to stand on their own, but woven together, they form an even more captivating narrative that paints a vivid picture of reality for women in the 1800s.

Various revelations related to exploitation in Anna's love life and employment soon reveal the influence of class, scandal, and reputation at the time. This rapid succession of twists regarding the nature of her life and death ramps up the pace in the book's latter half. Prior to this, the plot is perhaps a little slower than many would expect of a mystery, but this is ultimately to the book's credit. By allowing herself time to firmly establish her characters and their world before the action dials up a gear, Mukerji ensures we feel invested in their fate, intensifying the tension leading to the eventual climax.

Throughout it all, Lydia is a vibrant and charismatic heroine who feels well-positioned to lead her own potential series of mysteries moving forward. Her compassion and intellect in the face of very real struggles are a throughline that keeps the narrative grounded. This prevents the novel from ever veering into melodrama, even in its most exciting and theatrical moments.

There is equal appeal here for those who love portraits of social history and those who enjoy trying to stay one step ahead of an unraveling mystery. Striking a unique balance between the grittiness and atmosphere of noir fiction and the page-turning charm of cozy crime, Murder by Degrees marks the debut of an exciting new literary voice.

Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin

This review first ran in the November 15, 2023 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!


Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Murder by Degrees, try these:

  • The Doctors Blackwell jacket

    The Doctors Blackwell

    by Janice P. Nimura

    Published 2022

    About this book

    Elizabeth Blackwell believed from an early age that she was destined for a mission beyond the scope of "ordinary" womanhood.

  • The Pull of the Stars jacket

    The Pull of the Stars

    by Emma Donoghue

    Published 2021

    About this book

    More by this author

    In Dublin, 1918, a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu is a small world of work, risk, death, and unlooked-for love, in "Donoghue's best novel since Room" (Kirkus Reviews).

We have 4 read-alikes for Murder by Degrees, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years
    The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years
    by Shubnum Khan
    Shubnum Khan's eloquent and moving debut novel opens in 1932, when a djinn that haunts a house by ...
  • Book Jacket: Transient and Strange
    Transient and Strange
    by Nell Greenfieldboyce
    Throughout her powerful essay collection, Transient and Strange, science reporter Nell ...
  • Book Jacket: Prophet Song
    Prophet Song
    by Paul Lynch
    Paul Lynch's 2023 Booker Prize–winning Prophet Song is a speedboat of a novel that hurtles...
  • Book Jacket: The Frozen River
    The Frozen River
    by Ariel Lawhon
    "I cannot say why it is so important that I make this daily record. Perhaps because I have been ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Mockingbird Summer
by Lynda Rutledge
A powerful and emotional coming-of-age novel set in the 1960s by the bestselling author of West with Giraffes.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Adversary
    by Michael Crummey

    An enthralling novel about a small town struggling to survive, and a bitter vendetta between two rivals.

  • Book Jacket

    Strong Passions
    by Barbara Weisberg

    Shocking revelations of a wife's adultery in 19th New York explode in an incendiary trial exposing the upper-crust and its secrets.

Win This Book
Win The Cleaner

The Cleaner
by Brandi Wells

Rarely has cubicle culture been depicted in such griminess or with such glee."
PW (starred review)



Solve this clue:

I Wouldn't T H W A T-F P

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.