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Murder by Degrees

Edgar® award nominee for Best First Novel
Macavity award nominee for Best First Mystery

Philadelphia, 1875: It is the start of term at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Dr. Lydia Weston, professor of medicine and anatomist, is eager to immerse herself in the busy life of the college, teaching her students in the lecture hall and the hospital.

When her patient Anna Ward arrives at her clinic, Lydia knows something is wrong. The young woman is agitated and fearful, burdened by a secret she is unwilling to share. Soon after this unsettling visit, Anna’s body is dredged out of the Schuylkill River, her features distorted beyond recognition. Her clothes are neatly folded on the riverbank. The only clue left behind is a diary filled with cryptic passages of poetry. The death is ruled an apparent suicide. But Lydia is suspicious, as is Inspector Volcker of the Philadelphia police, who asks her to help with the investigation.

Anna was a chambermaid for a wealthy family, an exemplar in her work. She was the sole support for her disabled brother, whom she would never abandon. She had been keen on educating herself, attending free lectures and borrowing books from Lydia.

But as Lydia is drawn into the investigation, she discovers more about the young woman she thought she knew. Through her skill at the autopsy table and her clinical acumen, Lydia gets closer to 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 is an independent woman forging a path in a career reserved for men. Murder by Degrees is an intriguing, character-driven mystery, and a portrait of life at one of the first medical schools in the country devoted solely to the education of women physicians.


Nominee for Best Mystery, Golden Poppy award,
California Independent Booksellers Association

“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.”
Kirkus Reviews (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.”
Publishers Weekly (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.”
Library Journal (starred review)
“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.”
—BookBrowse (5-stars)

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!”
—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Diamond Eye

“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.”
—Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Spy Coast

“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.”
—Michelle Richmond, New York Times bestselling author of The Wonder Test

“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.”
—Sujata Massey, author of The Widows of Malabar Hill
“A stunning debut. Beautifully crafted characters and twists you won’t see coming. I devoured every page.”
—Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite series
“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!”
—Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Postmistress of Paris
“Suspenseful and captivating. Ritu Mukerji brings the operating theaters, drawing rooms, and back alleys of nineteenth-century Philadelphia to life in this darkly atmospheric mystery.”
—Allison Buccola, author of Catch Her When She Falls


For those who wish to learn more about the pioneering doctors of Woman’s Medical College, as well as the fascinating history of 19th century medicine, here are links to the websites of two great institutions:

Drexel UniversityMütter Museum

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