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
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.



Too Much Blood
by Jane Bennett Munro
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.


Thank you thank you thank you!!!

The Killer Pathologist


No, this is not about Jack Kevorkian. This is about reasons for hiring a pathologist to kill someone, on the premise that a pathologist might be able to commit the perfect murder in which there would be no trace of any usable forensic evidence.

NCIS fans will remember Abby threatening to kill McGee (or was it Tony?) without leaving any forensic evidence. Someone like Abby might just be able to pull that off. A pathologist, however…I don’t know. It would have to be someone intimately involved with crime scenes, which a generalist like me would not be.

After all the CSI and similar shows on TV, anybody should be smart enough to wear gloves, shoe covers, a hair cover, disposable clothing, throw the murder weapon into the river, and not leave a cigarette butt lying around. Anybody should be smart enough not to come to the funeral, or return to the crime scene, or brag about it to someone else. Obviously there should not be any accomplices, or any witnesses. There should have been no talk about being so mad at the victim you’d like to kill him, or even wish him dead. It would be even better if the murderer lived alone and didn’t have to account for his whereabouts to family members or anyone else.

(I’m using he and him in the generic sense here, not implying that only a male would either commit a murder or be a physician.)

None of this is specific to a pathologist, however. A pathologist, just by virtue of working in a hospital, would have access to much more subtle ways of killing someone. Although anybody can buy latex gloves in the paint department of Home Depot, where would one dispose of them safely? Fingerprints can be gotten off the insides of gloves these days. One might even be able to buy shoe covers and hair covers, and maybe even surgical scrubs, but again, safe disposal is a problem.

But one could dispose of bloody disposable protective gear in a red biohazard bag in a hospital, and nobody would ever open that bag once Housekeeping had taken it away to the incinerator. Even before that, nobody in his right mind would go rummaging around in a bag full of contaminated medical waste. It’s against all hospital policy dealing with biohazards. Likewise, one could buy needles and syringes in the drugstore, but how would one dispose of them after use? Only people who inject themselves regularly, like diabetics, have proper sharps containers in their homes. In the hospital, there are sharps containers everywhere, and nobody is allowed to go rummaging around in them. Once they’re full, off they go to the incinerator. The incinerator, by the way, is at a disposal center that contracts with hospitals to destroy medical waste, and picks it up on a regular basis. 

Practically any hospital employee would have that kind of access.

A pathologist, or indeed any physician, could obtain drugs to use as a murder weapon. Like potassium chloride or insulin. Or succinylcholine, which was used in Murder under the Microscope. If said pathologist ended up doing the autopsy, he could conceal any incriminating findings. The problem for a pathologist would be that they aren’t normally seen around places where drugs are kept, and hospitals being what they are, somebody would be sure to see him and remark upon it. In that scenario, perhaps a surgeon or anesthesiologist might be a better candidate for a murderer. Or a nurse. Or a pharmacist.

The point being, I guess, that maybe a pathologist isn’t necessarily the best candidate to do murder for hire. A pathologist could, however, manipulate the autopsy findings.

The biggest problem would be finding a pathologist that would do it in the first place. He’d have to be awfully desperate for money.

Like, for example, he’d just lost everything in a Ponzi scheme.