Danielle Girard introduces readers to Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman, Medical Examiner in a new series. This first book is called Exhume and it includes a variety of themes. First, of course is the world of morgues and autopsies. Second, is the way her role of gathering evidence helps the San Francisco PD solve crimes. The third theme is a little more complicated, and truly is the heart of the book.

Schwartzman is a former abused—physically and psychologically—spouse with arguably the most vindictive ex I’ve ever read about. He stalks her in incredibly personal and extreme ways. And now she’s trying to dig up or exhume an actual, normal life from the depths without having to worry about him constantly. Until now, she’s kept her colleagues in the dark about her past. But her current life and past life careen towards each other as a murder case hits entirely too close to home.

Girard writes with dark and gritty intensity and balances the exposition of her characters with plenty of suspense. Reading Exhume right before bed is a bad idea. It gets gruesome sometimes. 

My conclusions

Although Exhume includes plenty of medical details, at its core it’s a suspense thriller. The “escaping a nasty spouse” trope is much stronger here than the life of a medical examiner. However, I like Schwartzman enough to commit to continuing the series. Hopefully books later in the series will be more focused on her role as Medical Examiner.

I also couldn’t help but compare this character to Gwen Proctor from the Stillhouse Lake series by Rachel Caine. Both women work hard to create normal lives after being involved with controlling and dangerous men. Schwartzman is on her own, where Proctor has two kids. But both of them are new in town and must determine who is trustworthy. I like them both equally. Their grit and determination are admirable, and I like to think I’d be just as tough in their situation. 

I noticed a couple of questionable medical details in Exhume. Nothing that affected my ability to believe the plot. Just sideline moments that were less than logical, based on my own experiences and knowledge. 

I recommend Danielle Girard and the Dr. Schwartzman series to anyone who likes taut and tense thrillers. Watch here for more reviews of this series in the coming months. 

Pair with the Stillhouse Lake series or Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime by Val McDermid.