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.
RECOMMENDED by the USR