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Murder by Degrees (2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Ritu Mukerji is a bestselling historical fiction novelist who is best known for her debut novel “Murder by Degrees.”

She was born in Kolkata India, even though she spent much of her childhood in the Bay Area in San Francisco.

From when she was very young, she loved reading mysteries which would range from the novels of Ruth Rendell and PD James to police procedurals. As such, she has always been a confirmed connoisseur of Golden Age crime fiction.
Mukerji went to Columbia University where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history. She would then proceed to the Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College where she got her medical degree.
For her residency, she went to the University of California and has been an internist for one and a half decades.

Ritu currently makes her home in Marin County, California, where she lives with her husband and children.

Growing up, one of Ritu Mukerji’s favorite things was the weekly trips she used to take to the local library.

She still remembers how she used to come back home with her mother’s blue tote bag filled with books that had all manner of new worlds just waiting to be discovered. Very little has changed since those days, except for the fact that she got a new tote bag.
As an adult, she can still be found in a bookstore or library, happily reading away the hours as she finds it a place of exploration, learning, and sanctuary.

While she was in Philadelphia working on her medical degree, she used to wander the narrow cobblestone streets as she became an explorer discovering things on foot.
She then lived in an apartment on Pine Street and 9th, a stone’s throw away from Pennsylvania Hospital.

She still remembers touring the surgical amphitheater full of history and discovering places such as the “College of Physicians’” medical library and the “Mutter Museum.”
It was there that she came to learn and became fascinated with the trailblazing women of the “Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.”

All of these would simmer in her mind and would influence her later writing.

Ritu Mukerji had always wanted to become an author of mystery novels. While she went on to become a doctor, she woke up one day and decided to write as she believed there was never going to be a better time.
She began waking up early in the mornings to write before going to work at the hospital and late at night after she came back and her kids were all asleep.

It was never easy since there were many times when it was all too much and she got home and collapsed in a heap unable to write anything.

Over time, writing would become a wonderful escape and she loved delving into research on Victorian poetry or forensic science and thinking about character development and story arcs.

Thinking like a nineteenth-century doctor was fascinating, as she looked into the available treatments, the crude tools available to doctors, and how doctors examined patients and made a diagnosis.
Ritu loved learning all she could about Woman’s Med and the early physicians in the organization, who defied the expectations of their society and made a career in medicine.

Some of these were well-known historical figures such as Ann Preston and Putnam Jacobi. However, many women were not well known and their voices remained alive through fragments of letters and diaries.
Ritu was often awe-struck by how their voices sounded so modern and vivid, as they spoke of the difficulties they faced as they sought to balance the professional and the personal.
She found a lot of inspiration from these voices, particularly when she used to work the difficult and long days during the Pandemic.

Since she lives a very busy life, Ritu Mukerji has a very simple writing routine.

She often sits at her kitchen table with her cup of tea and pens her stories early in the morning and late at night since these are the quietest times when she can think clearly.

She has always been a person who loved immersing herself in a book and reading on one subject for hours. As such, researching her novels always feels very familiar, particularly since she has many years of medical training that requires similar rigor.
The most challenging thing was the writing, as she often felt frustrated that she was not making as much progress as she hoped she would when she first started.

While it took years to write her novel, the more consistent she was, the more momentum she achieved, and even when writing was tough, she found that she enjoyed it.

“Murder by Degrees” is the debut work by Ritu Mukerji who is also a doctor who applies her medical knowledge to a gripping tale with a setting in Philadelphia in 1875.

The lead in the novel is Dr. Lydia Weston, who works at the Spruce Street clinic tending to working-class patients and at the Woman’s Medical College teaching future female doctors.
Most men dismiss her accomplishments, as they believe women are hysterical beings who can never be good doctors.

When the body of one of her patients is found in the Schuylkill River, she finds herself roped into a police investigation.

The dead woman has been working for a wealthy family in town as a housemaid and her former employers are not cooperating in the investigation.

Their reticence makes it possible for Mukeji to craft a work that delves into the struggles of women like Anna and Lydia and the deprivation people in service usually suffer.
Similar to Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell, she pulls you into a richly detailed and fascinating forensic autopsy.

Weston an interesting character she introduces later on is an ordinary person who possesses determination and instinct that make it possible for her to conduct a murder investigation, just as well or even better than a real detective.
It is a well-written work that has been compared to the likes of the works of Wordsworth, Browning, and Tennyson.

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2 Responses to “Ritu Mukerji”

  1. Pietra Gaw: 2 months ago

    Just finished reading your book Murder by Degrees, I found it to be very interesting. I hope you follow this up as a series. I look forward to adding you to the list of authors that I follow. Thank you so much for a good read.
    Pietra

    Reply
  2. Christine Reid: 3 months ago

    It was by happenstance that I picked up this book at a local library in Raleigh. And from the start, I found myself so enraptured with the narrative. The historical setting and police intrigue are kindred to the first Anne Perry mystery I read some 20 years ago.
    Now retired from a 40-year career in healthcare at a teaching hospital, I thoroughly related to the clinical aspects described, along with a relatable bias toward women in medicine. The layers in the novel are delightful, and happily the mystery of “who done it” was a tightly woven tapestry to the end. Thank you for your brilliant prose. Please write more.

    Reply

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