Boffo reviews from the Big Guys

Boy am I jazzed. Beyond jazzed. Both Murder Under the Microscope and Too Much Blood got RECOMMENDED ratings from the US Review of Books. They’re both listed in the June issue of the USR newsletter. Here they are.

Any authentic work must start an argument between the artist and his audience. -Rebecca West  

Murder Under the Microscope
by Jane Bennett Munro
iUniverse
reviewed by Carol Davala

“‘Nobody is above suspicion in the eyes of the law,’ Elliot said pompously. ‘Sometimes it’s the last freakin’ person you’d suspect.'”

Jane Bennett Munro has taken her 30-plus years experience as a hospital pathologist and her love of mystery novels, and intertwined them into an exciting new career. The result is an engaging whodunit that revolves around Toni Day Shapiro, a smart, inquisitive, and determined pathologist working in the fictional Perrine Memorial Hospital in Twin Falls, Idaho. From the story’s opening line, “There was a dead body in my office. It wasn’t mine, and I didn’t put it there,” Munro’s first person approach and hint of humor draw readers directly into the mystery of Toni’s being framed for the murder of a visiting physician.

Each chapter brings a new dimension to the plot, ultimately to include a stalking ex-boyfriend, a stolen identity, a hit-n-run, kidnapping, rape, bigamy, embezzlement, and suicide. Simultaneously, Munro opens chapters with great little quotes that smartly set the tone for ensuing action.  From Shakespeare to Agatha Christie’s “Every murderer is probably somebody’s old friend,” the words ring true. Characters are prevalent, from hospital staff to lawyers and detectives. Toni’s English “Mum,” with a penchant for making lists, pleasantly helps Toni and readers alike put all the facts in perspective.             

Munro clearly draws upon her personal pathology expertise to finely detail hospital and lab activities and settings. While the crimes within the storyline are often dangerous and/or deadly, the author stylistically refrains from gratuitous explanations of violence, beyond their necessity to the investigation. In true mystery style, the writer keeps us guessing. Munro’s book is well-crafted with steady pacing that keeps readers turning pages, analyzing suspects, and looking for answers, right along with Toni.                             Murder Under the Microscope is an exemplary first novel. Here the author presents a likeable main character and the necessary quality elements that draw readers to  mystery and make it such an enjoyable literary genre.

RECOMMENDED by the USR

James  

Too Much Blood
by Jane Bennett Munro
iUniverse
reviewed by Barbara Deming

“You’ll never guess what just happened?”

Jay Braithwaite Burke, sleazy, ponzi-scammer attorney is on forensic pathologist Toni Day’s autopsy table. He had bilked people out of thousands of dollars, and, when the scheme collapsed, he disappeared. Where has he been? Why did he return to the scene of his crimes only to wind up dead?

The autopsy and lab work shows Burke died of a brain hemorrhage. His local doctor had treated him for a heart problem. Was he given the wrong drug which caused excessive bleeding?  Or did someone give him an overdose? The lack of concrete reasons for accidental or natural cause of death warrants Toni’s conclusion that this is a case of homicide. Complications with the case are almost as worrisome as the verbal skirmishes with her husband, and the anger/fear over her suspicions that Hal is having an affair. But when disaster strikes in mega doses, she temporarily puts her personal angst aside and hits the investigative trail.             

People connected to him and his scheme are Toni’s co-workers. Several homes burn to the ground. Some family members fall ill. It appears Burke has two wills; the first one leaves money to women he had affairs with. But he claimed to be broke, didn’t he? And then a mysterious bleeding illness attacks those people involved with the disgraced attorney. Police cry, “Murder!” As Toni would say, “Christ on a crutch, what is going on here?”                                                        Author Munro, a semi-retired pathologist, has written a can’t-put-down tale of murder and poisoning seen through the eyes of a pathologist bent on solving crimes. Munro’s writing is entertaining, believable, and fast-paced. She takes you into the autopsy room, shows the fragility of the characters, and makes the reader feel they are inside the story. Readers will definitely be looking forward to solving more cases with this character.

RECOMMENDED by the USR

Thank you thank you thank you!!!

Deep Throat

Author: Jane Bennett Munro
Genre: Mystery
Series: #1 in Toni Day medical mystery series
Type: Paperback
Source: directly from author
Publisher: iUniverse
First Published: 2011
First Line: “There was a dead body in my office.”

Note: My sincere thanks to author Jane Bennett Munro for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Description:  Dr. Antoinette Day- a young, successful pathologist known to her friends and colleagues as Toni-has no idea what awaits her when Dr. Sally Shore arrives at Perrine Memorial Hospital in Twin Falls, Idaho, to fill in for a colleague recovering from a heart attack. Toni’s life is about to become a living hell. Dr. Shore is supposed to see patients, perform surgeries, and take turns covering the emergency room until the regular surgeon recovers from his quadruple bypass. But unfortunately, she uses her temporary opportunity to discredit Toni and tarnish her reputation with her medical colleagues. When the visiting surgeon is conveniently murdered- her lifeless body found in Toni’s office-Toni is the obvious suspect. But Toni is not going down without a fight. Forced to solve the murder in order to save her future, Toni’s life becomes even more complicated when her ex-boyfriend starts stalking her and threatening her husband.

In this riveting murder mystery, a stubborn pathologist must rely on more than just her microscope as she delves into a complicated murder mystery, soon discovering that it is not just her freedom at stake-but her life

My Thoughts:  Medical mystery is a genre that I really haven’t read.  But one of the things that drew me to review this book was the fact that the author had a successful 33 year career as a forensic pathologist.  To me, this means that she could back up all the medical terms, storylines and the inner workings of a hospital with her real-life experience.  This experience gives the book a sense of authenticity to Toni’s role as a pathologist.

But one of the downfalls of having a professional medical specialist write a mystery is that sometimes the medical jargon gets a little heavy and that’s what, in my opinion, happened here at times.  I was left wondering in a few spots if the unknown medical term I had just read was vital to the mystery or if I could just keep going and assume that my ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘ER’ TV medical ‘training’ was enough to get me through the verbiage.  The good news is that, for the most part, my hours watching Dr Grey and her cronies was enough to get me by.  (Note: I also read this the ‘old fashioned way’ with a paperback so I also didn’t have my Kindle’s dictionary at my fingertips to help me along the way either.)

So, what did I think about this first book in the Toni Day mystery series?  Overall it was a good start and had many things going for it.  There were a lot of plot lines and twists and Toni was an interesting and strong main character who was knowledgeable and spunky.  She definitely held her own and was able to get into enough trouble to keep things flowing fairly well.  Toni was definitely the star of the book and the author used this first book to help the reader really get to know her.  The supporting characters were much more on the sidelines in this book so I’m hoping that I’ll get to know them in the next book.

I did have an issue with the dialogue and it stemmed from the emotions of some of the characters seeming to come out of nowhere — specifically anger and excessive swearing.  I’m not against swearing in a book but I prefer it to not be used needlessly.  For example, Toni referring to a ‘f**king endotracheal tube’ was a little over the top for me and her anger over the tube seemed to come out of nowhere.  This excessive swearing and sudden angry emotional outbursts seemed a little disjointed with who I thought the characters were.  I actually went back and reread a part a couple of times to make sure that I had understood the feeling of the conversation but I still couldn’t understand the reasons for the sudden outburst of anger/swearing.  Unfortunately those episodes did detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. 

Two of the things that this book excels at are amount of action and the twists and turns.  Wow!  There were a few storylines (ranging from the murder to a creepy stalker) as well as red herrings to keep the reader guessing.  While I had an inkling about ‘who dunnit’, it didn’t detract from me enjoying the book. 

Overall, this is a very ambitious first book of a new series.  Dr Munro has created an interesting main character and setting that will ensure many opportunities for Toni to solve crimes.  I was impressed with the detail involved in this first book by the author and while sometimes it did get a little heavy in medical-ese I did enjoy the read.  I’m sure the character development and flow of the dialogue will only improve in future books.

There is already a second book to this series, “Too Much Blood” that Dr Munro has generously sent me to review as well.  I look forward to reading that book soon to see what kind of trouble Toni can get into now. 🙂 

My Rating: 3/5 stars (a solid start to a new series)

Thanks, Laurie, for a thought provoking review. Sorry about the gratuitous swearing, I know it can be off-putting to some people and I suppose I should clean up my language. But with regard to the f-ing endotracheal tube, was it by any chance the one that was down Toni’s throat?

Having one of those down one’s throat while conscious has got to be one of the scariest, most helpless feelings there is. I don’t blame Toni for being angry, and I don’t blame her for wanting to get the f-ing thing out. 

Just saying.