Thursday, July 7, 2011

Deadly (fiction)

Tracking down a killer is just not what "proper young ladies" do, even if the killer is a germ. Prudence would certainly rather unravel a medical mystery than please her instructors at the snooty School for Girls!

Diseases regularly have regularly swept through the poorer sections of cities from the time that humans began clustering together on a permanent basis. In the Middle Ages, people thought that evil humors caused these epidemics; by the early 1900s the theory that filth contained disease-transmitting germs was gaining ground.

How could healthy people in a well-kept household suddenly become deathly ill when they had no exposure to the city slums with their filth and diseases?

Part social commentary, part detective story, Deadly is enhanced by the sketches which Prudence includes as she journals her way through this perilous time, on the trail of Typhoid Mary.

Book info: Deadly / by Julie Chibbaro; illustrations by Jean-Marc Superville Sovak. Simon & Schuster, 2011 [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: In her 1906 journal, Prudence worries and dreams and sketches, wondering why doctors couldn’t save her brother’s life, why her father hasn’t returned from the Spanish-American War, how she can make a difference for those who suffer in her neighborhood.

The etiquette lessons and needlework at her school seem so trivial, compared to the life and death, joy and pain that Pru and her mother see during Marm’s midwife duties. When final-year students are encouraged to get part-time jobs using their skills on those newfangled typewriters, Pru leaps at the chance to do useful work.

She is hired by the new Department of Health and Sanitation as a research assistant and is soon swept into their investigation of a typhoid outbreak. Mr. Soper investigates every aspect of any household where the deadly disease has struck. They travel throughout New York City as typhoid sickens some people and kills others – is there a common cause?

When they discover that a healthy cook has been in the kitchen of every typhoid-stricken family, Mr. Soper and Prudence must find medical experts who can help them prove their unusual theory and stop the epidemic.

A compelling account of Typhoid Mary’s history, retold from a young woman’s point of view. When does the public good override individual freedom? Does science have more answers or more questions? Will Prudence take the next step and become a doctor herself? (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher and author.

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