In 1894 France, Madeleine Karno hopes to follow in her father’s footsteps as a pathologist. She is passionate about medicine and especially about science and how it can help the dead 'speak.' When a young girl is found lifeless outside her own home, the autopsy can find no evidence of murder; however, the discovery of tiny mites in her nostrils leads Madeleine and her father on a lengthy investigation involving the girl’s family, a priest, abused children, and a convent school that has a three-hundred year tradition of keeping wolves.

By the end, the story is littered with corpses, each needing careful pathological inspection. Madeleine is chillingly threatened, but she lives and justice prevails.  


Several aspects of this mystery make it of interest to the database.

First, the frustration of a late-nineteenth-century woman aspiring to a career in science is juxtaposed with her desire to be the dutiful daughter to a needy father, reminiscent of the Bramwell television series.  

Second, the presence of “new” scientific tools for the investigation of the dead: autopsy, microscopy, and bacteriology; they are all the more poignant for the absence of the tools that are not yet available, such as fingerprinting and DNA.

Third, some interesting vignettes of certain ailments—lupus and priapism—that provoke massive suffering.

Finally, a few deft touches refer to real events in the medical past: a cameo consultation by Louis Pasteur, a “wild-boy” raised by wolves like the child of Aveyron, Friedrich Fehleisen applying his discovery of the erysipelas germ, streptococci, in Wagner-Jauregg-style “fever therapy” avant la lettre, and the construct of a canine nasal mite as a vector for lethal bacterial infection in humans.

Less successful is the dénouément that features a confusing rationale involving religious and auto-immune madness. The prose style is clear, accessible, and direct, but with the extensive use of dialogue and straightforward time-sequence, it occasionally reminds readers of the author’s success as a children’s writer. 


Translated from the original Danish by Elisabeth Dyssegaard.


Atria Books, Simon and Schuster

Place Published

New York



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