Bodies in the Library’s recommendations come out the last day of each month and they aim to bring together great crime fiction reads for fans of the genre. The lists are eclectic and diverse, and they celebrate contemporary crime fiction writers and classics alike.
This month’s recommendations are extra special to me because even though literature is clearly my first love, medicine follows very closely. My mum is a nurse, and some of my closest relatives are doctors so it was just a matter of time that showed an interest in the field.
As you can imagine, medicine and crime fiction combine perfectly, especially after the CSI effect in the 2000s and the spike in forensic everything, from TV shows to museum exhibitions and even escape rooms. But as I always say: The book came first and it is better.
All the novels that I have picked up are the first in each of the series so that if you enjoy them, you will have plenty of books to keep you going for a few years.
1. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
No matter which Sherlock Holmes story you pick, medicine and turn-of-the-century forensics will play a key role in the solving of the case. Conan Doyle went to med school, became a doctor and created one of the most iconic characters out there, which would eventually inspire a detective/doctor in the 2000s with the TV show House M.D. For those of you who would like to learn more about this, you will find more here:“A medical perspective on The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”.
2. Postmortem (Kay Scarpetta #1) by Patricia Cornwell
Fast forward to 1990, and you will find the origins of the CSI effect in a novel. The first one in the Kay Scarpetta series, this book is considered a landmark in contemporary popular culture. Why? Because it is considered the first forensic thriller in the US, a crime fiction subgenre that would change the way mass audiences see science. DNA? Yes, sure it’s no big deal for us in 2018, but DNA profiling was not incorporated into the detecting process until the mid-1990s. Even then, it was hard to understand and, as American Crime Story reminded us, it was dismissed in several criminal cases. Cornwell has since then become a forensic specialist and doctor Kay Scarpetta went to become an American icon. More on why I think Patricia Cornwell is so important here.
3. Déja Dead by Kathy Reichs
Following the critical and economic success of the Kay Scarpetta series, real-life scientist Kathy Reichs published the first novel featuring a forensic anthropologist. Doctor Temperance Brennan is considered by many Reich’s alter-ego, and her dry and clinical tone, her love affair with her police partner, and her forensic abilities would serve as the defining features for Bones, the TV show that would make her one of the 2000s most-beloved detectives. Want some random trivia? The American Board of Anthropologist only has 82 certified members, but thanks to Reichs’ work, we all know what they do and their importance in international conflicts. Cool, right?
4. Blindsighted (Grant County #1) by Karin Slaughter
If you are in for something gore and detailed, Slaughter is your author. This Georgian writer does not shy away from blood, intestines pulled out of the body, and ritualistic murder. I might as well admit now that the combination of Southern Gothic features with forensics made me leave the book in my nightstand for a few weeks even though local paediatrician and coroner Sara Linton was a steel magnolia and eventually pulled through. This one would be perfect for fans of True Detective.