A Deadly Affection (Dr. Genevieve Summerford Mystery #1) by Cuyler Overholt
A Deadly Affection is the first instalment in what I hope will turn into a series starring the rather forward thinking Dr Genevieve Summerford. The year is 1907, the setting is New York, and whilst many women during that period suffered a deplorable lack of choice Genevieve is fortunate enough to have graduated as a Doctor. One of the few (if not the only) female doctor of the era. At the start of the story as we meet Genevieve we are made familiar with her desire to move into the progressive branch of psychology. She longs to help women with mental disorders that she believes are connected with traumas they have suffered. No stranger to loss herself this is an ambition very close to Genevieve’s heart and although she meets with objections all along the line she is determined to succeed.
Having been introduced to a number of women deemed appropriate to become potential patients Genevieve takes her first therapy class. Disappointingly this first session doesn’t go as well as Genevieve hoped, it seems everyone is a sceptic, that is until the end when one of the women stays behind to speak with her and seek advice. And this is where the murder mystery begins! The young woman in question is Eliza. A young woman unhappy about an event in her past. Genevieve advises her to confront her doctor and so the next day when the doctor in question turns up dead with Eliza on the scene covered in blood things don’t really look to promising.
From here, Genevieve becomes involved in the murder case, determined to prove Eliza’s innocence and also, to be honest, feeling not just a little guilty for having provoked the visit by Eliza to her doctor in the first place
Why did I like this? Well, firstly it’s a very easy to read story. The writing style is enjoyable and the author finds a good mix of plot versus attention to detail. I enjoyed the time period and I think that the author does a good job of recreating the feel of the time and place. On top of this it’s a very interesting period to read about, a time of innovation and invention and one in which women, such as Genevieve, were finally taking steps to have a voice. Alongside this I think the overall story art and conclusion were very intriguing and I’m hoping that this book will lay the tracks for Genevieve to become involved in future murder mysteries. I’m hopeful that her insights into the psychological aspects that make a person tick together with her medical knowledge could become a valuable asset to the police at a time when investigative techniques were just starting to evolve.
In terms of characters. Well, Genevieve’s parents are part of the well to do set, whilst not quite top notch they are fortunate enough to enjoy their position of privilege and wealth mingling with the most prominent members of New York’s elite society. The family suffered a shocking loss a few year’s earlier when Genevieve’s brother died in a tragic accident. Genevieve has always blamed herself and relationships between her and her father are a little strained. On top of this, as a young adult Genevieve became romantically involved with a man deemed totally inappropriate by her parents and she was hastily packed off to Europe. These issues are all examined during the course of the story and help to give a good feel for the family dynamic.
In terms of criticisms – not a great deal to speak of. I would like to spend a little more time with Genevieve to get to know her better. She’s not perfect – she makes mistakes and then probably makes even more mistakes as she stumbles around trying to rectify things and she can be a little bit clueless in terms of her own personal safety – but I like imperfection in my protagonists. More realistic that way. I also thought the conclusion was a little bit more convoluted than I ever anticipated but I certainly never had an inkling of what was to come which was certainly a bonus.
I don’t have a lot of opportunity to read historical dramas any more as I predominantly focus on SFF so this was a very welcome interlude for me. I thought the story was well paced and intriguing and I would definitely pick up future works in this series.
Thanks to the publishers for approving me for a copy of A Deadly Affection, courtesy of Netgalley. The above is my own opinion.