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Reviews of Murder by Degrees by Ritu Mukerji

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


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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Book Summary

For fans of Jacqueline Winspear and Charles Todd, Murder by Degrees is a historical mystery set in 19th century Philadelphia, following a pioneering woman doctor as she investigates the disappearance of a young patient who is presumed dead.

Philadelphia, 1875: It is the start of term at Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania. Dr. Lydia Weston, professor and anatomist, is immersed in teaching her students in the lecture hall and hospital. When the body of a patient, Anna Ward, is dredged out of the Schuylkill River, the young chambermaid's death is deemed a suicide. But Lydia is suspicious and she is soon brought into the police investigation.

Aided by a diary filled with cryptic passages of poetry, Lydia discovers more about the young woman she thought she knew. Through her skill at the autopsy table and her clinical acumen, Lydia draws nearer the truth. Soon a terrible secret, long hidden, will be revealed. But Lydia must act quickly, before she becomes the next target of those who wished to silence Anna.


Dr. Lydia Weston glanced discreetly at her watch. Her patient, Delia Townsend, sat on the examination table. With each deep breath, Mrs. Townsend's corsets creaked in protest. She lifted her chin in stubborn protest as she recited a litany of concerns.

"This fatigue consumes me. After breakfast, I feel ill-suited to do anything. I could lie down and sleep for hours. Perhaps I need a tonic?"

Lydia placed her stethoscope on her desk. Privately she thought that Mrs. Townsend should take some exercise, but she kept this to herself.

She took out her prescription pad and wrote as Mrs. Townsend disappeared behind the chinoiserie screen to dress.

Lydia sighed. She had a stack of patient notes to write before the day was done and Mrs. Townsend's concerns were nothing new. But the patient needed time to fully voice her complaints or else the visit would take twice as long.

An iron tonic would be little more than a placebo, Lydia thought. She had done a thorough exam as she always did: ...

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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...continued

Full Review (509 words)

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(Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Like Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs, Lydia is a strong and indomitable woman who transcends her circumstances to become her true self and a crusader for social justice. This atmospheric novel heralds the arrival of a talented new writer and an unforgettable heroine.

Library Journal (starred review)
On the surface, this debut by Mukerji, herself a medical doctor, appears to be a mystery about the death of a working-class servant, but it's much more, as it examines women's rights, social conditions, and medicine in Philadelphia just a decade after the Civil War. Fans of Maddie Day's 'Quaker Midwife' series will appreciate this detailed historical mystery.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Mukerji's taut plotting and vivid depiction of the era's medical practices and social customs will leave readers eager for a second installment

Author Blurb Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Diamond Eye
Murder by Degrees stars a capable, likeable heroine in Dr. Lydia Weston, who battles for acceptance every day as a female doctor in 19th century Philadelphia, and when one of her favorite patients turns up apparently murdered Lydia will need all her diagnostic skills to unmask the killer. Ritu Mukerji—a practicing physician herself, her expertise shining on every page—pens a heartfelt ode to the historic women who blazed a trail in medicine before her as well as a wonderfully entertaining mystery. Hopefully Lydia Weston's adventures will continue in future volumes!

Author Blurb Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Postmistress of Paris
The evocative nineteenth century Philadelphia setting and the very real early history of the Woman's Medical College is new and fresh and fantastically feminist. But it's the kindness and care and the wonderful wisdom of Dr. Lydia Weston—even as she uncovers secrets cloaked in privilege and obsessions shrouded in shame—that makes Murder by Degrees one fantastic read!

Author Blurb Michelle Richmond, New York Times bestselling author of The Wonder Test
In Murder by Degrees, Ritu Mukerji delivers a fresh take on a classic genre. When the smart, compassionate Dr. Lydia Weston teams up with Inspector Volcker to solve the murder of a beloved patient, she proves that science is a formidable truth-teller. Set against the vivid backdrop of 19th century Philadelphia, this twisty debut mystery feels refreshingly modern. I can't wait to see what Dr. Weston does next.

Author Blurb Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author of The Tracy Crosswhite Series
A stunning debut. Beautifully crafted characters and twists you won't see coming. I devoured every page.

Author Blurb Sujata Massey, author of The Widows of Malabar Hill
I was kept guessing until the very end of this gorgeously written mystery set in a highly Gothic, 19th-century Philadelphia. Ritu Mukerji illuminates the little-known history of America's earliest women physicians through her protagonist Lydia Weston, an unforgettable young woman whose intelligence is equally matched by her compassion. A brilliant start to a series that presents the medical mystery in a feminist light.

Author Blurb Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Spy Coast
Ritu Mukerji weaves a thrillingly atmospheric tale of intrigue, featuring a brilliant female doctor who's ahead of her time. The descriptions of medicine in a bygone era are so vivid, you can almost see the glint of lamplight reflected in Dr. Lydia Weston's scalpel as she slices through skin.

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Beyond the Book

Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania

Stylized black-and-white drawing showing the first building of Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, surrounding trees, front sidewalk, passers-by, and a horse and carriage in the street, with text below explaining that this was how the building first appeared in 1850 Both the first hospital and the first medical school in the United States were founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, landing it the nickname "City of Medicine." Therefore, it seems only natural that it also became home to the first school in the world dedicated to providing women with a full formal education in the field, allowing them to study for a medical degree. In Ritu Mukerji's Murder by Degrees, protagonist Lydia Weston is a professor at this school.

Established in 1850, it was initially named the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania but rebranded in 1867 as the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP). Its founders were a group of radical Quakers who had long championed social change, including the abolition of ...

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