Enter the Detecting Lady: Victorian Mysteries

When I went looking for readalikes for Kaite Welsh's The Wages of Sin, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of books I discovered. It seems that the past few years have seen the starts of several mystery series set in the Victorian era and featuring intrepid heroines. Here then, are some of them:

The Wages of Sin stars Sarah Gilchrist, a disgraced London debutante who is part of the first cohort of women students at the University of Edinburgh's medical school. To get more training, she volunteers at an infirmary in the slums. When one of her erstwhile patients from the infirmary ends up on the dissection table, Sarah starts asking some very dangerous questions. Full of musings about class, poverty and feminism, as well as a definite sense of soggy Edinburgh and a dash of romance, this looks to be the start of an excellent new series.

Another disgraced lady of the upper class takes to professional discernment in A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas. Charlotte Holmes, after being banished to London and always in possession of an observational ability deemed unnerving by those it falls on, sets up practice as, you guessed it, Sherlock Holmes. Many of the usual characters appear, though their origin stories have gone through the looking glass along with the protagonist. A cracking, complex mystery involving an aristocrat and apparently natural deaths and a good feel for Victorian London also recommend this tale.

While technically a teen title, Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco is very much in the same vein as the two previous books. Audrey Rose Wadsworth has some pursuits that would label her peculiar for her gender and class, like studying the burgeoning science of forensic medicine with her uncle against her father's wishes. When a serial killer lets loose on London's East End and her uncle is thrown in Bedlam for the crimes, Audrey and her rival/sidekick Thomas are out to solve the mystery and confront the murderer. While not for the faint of heart, this engrossing whodunit is full of red herrings and surprises.

Finally, there is E.S. Thomson's Beloved Poison. Jem Flockhart poses as a man to work alongside her father as an apothecary at the decrepit St. Saviour's infirmary. The directors have sold off the property to make way for a railway bridge and the junior architect has been tasked with emptying out the graveyard. Jem finds that one curious doctor has been poisoned, and belives the murder is connected to the six small paper coffins discovered in the chapel. There's plenty of despair and professional backstabbing, too. Full of period detail, especially that of the Dark-Ages state of medicine of the era, one gets a definite feel of time and place. Winner of several awards, this book will make you glad you live in a time of sanitation and anesthetics.

Got more tales of brave young misses with noses for trouble? Let us know on the comments section.

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