In Book 4, Murder in the Moonlight, whispers of misconduct swirl around Grace Penrose, when a prominent surgeon has a fatal seizure on their moonlit stroll together.
Grace and the victim are on opposing sides of a feud over hospital services for women. How could she refuse his invitation to resolve their differences in private? When he dies despite her attempts to save him, and his unusual symptoms further implicate her, it’s not only her personal and professional reputation at risk.
As the case becomes ever more baffling, the only thing Grace needs more than Charlie Pyke’s sleuthing skills is his uncanny knack of appearing when she needs him most.
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Tensions erupt in Murder in the Moonlight after a (fictional) change of plans for the new extension to Dunedin hospital, dropping the much-needed women’s ward in favour of surgical facilities.
In the real world, disagreements over hospital facilities are nothing new. As I write, the scope of the new Dunedin hospital is the subject of heated debate, a hundred and thirty years after a new hospital was proposed to remedy the perilous conditions endured by patients at the hospital towards the end of the 19th century.
Dunedin Hospital opened on its present site in Great King Street in 1866, in the building erected for the 1865 Grand Exhibition. [Image source: Hocken Library].
Grand the building may have been, but it was far from ideal for a hospital. The draughty, unsafe and insanitary conditions described in Murder in the Moonlight were largely derived from real accounts of the hospital.
Readers will recognise elements of the story in this recollection by Sir Lindo Ferguson (cited in: Anatomy of a Medical School: a History of Medicine at the University of Otago, 1875-2000 University of Otago Press, Dunedin).
Much of the action in book takes place in a fictional house on Royal Terrace, with a fine view over Dunedin City and Otago Peninsula. The street is backed by the Town Belt, an area of trees, as in the second image. [Images sourced from the Hocken Library.]
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