B.A. – Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
M.F.A.– Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina
Thriller Sub-genre: Forensic, Crime Thriller
Future of the series: The latest book in the series entitled Excise was released on 8/22/16. The next in the series Expose has a tentative release date of 7/24/18
The Simon Review
Danielle Girard has started a new series starting with Exhume that features medical examiner Annabelle Schwartzman. What is unique about Schwartzman compared to other series featuring medical examiners is that Schwartzman comes onto the scene with some heavy baggage. She left a physically and psychologically abusive marriage which included losing her unborn child during an attack. She was able to escape, leaving her home in South Carolina to take a position as the medical examiner for the San Francisco Police Department. Though she may have left the marriage, the abuse continued with her husband refusing to give her a divorce and instilling fear by stalking her. The stalking escalates to a high pitch when a series of murders indicates that Schwartzman’s husband is the most likely culprit, but the problem is that she cannot prove it.
Girard’s portrayal of Schwartzman is outstanding as she describes how a smart level headed woman can also become the victim of an abusive relationship and how leaving the relationship doesn’t necessarily end the abuse. The psychology of why women stay in abusive relationships is complicated and often the problems don’t end once they leave the relationship. A study conducted at the University of Arizona found that 98% of abused spouses experienced some psychological abuse or control within the first three months to a year after separation. It will be interesting to see as the series continues how Girard deals with Schwarzman’s ability to cope after the events that occurred in Exhume.
Girard seems to have a good start to what looks like will be an exciting and thoughtful series. Exhume will be followed by Excise to be released August 2017 and Girard has recently started the third in the series Expose.
What about the science? There is not a lot of science is Girard’s thriller, but she does like to drop a few anatomical terms here and there. I think this is great because of all medical specialties, medical examiners and pathologist are the most anatomically intensive professions. Also Girard shows how these professionals may think while not working on a case which I find so wonderfully geeky.
The Annabelle Schwartzman Technical Word in Review: HER2– This acronym refers to a protein known as human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, and the gene that produces this protein is considered to be an oncogene. Oncogenes are genes within our genome that has the potential of causing cancer. When an oncogene mutates or for some reason aggressively overexpresses to produce more protein, cancer develops. The function of HER2 as a receptor is to bind to other proteins such as epidermal growth factor (EGF), a secreted protein that activates cell division. Once EGF binds to HER2, the receptor will initiate a complicated cascade effect (see illustration) that results in the stimulation of DNA synthesis which results in cell division. HER2 becomes a problem when the HER2 gene overexpresses and produces too much of the HER2 protein which results is cancer. About 15-30% of all breast cancer cases are caused by the overexpression of HER2.
“I can’t tell you what stage it is until after surgery.”
The word surgery rang in her head like a bell. He said something else that she missed. “…. receptive, which is good. It is HER2, which is also positive. I would like to get you back to do an ultrasound on your left breast to be certain we haven’t missed anything on that side. I have a one o’clock appointment on Thursday. I know this may seem like a lot. – Exhume
Books in the Series by Order:
Most Favorite in the series: Excise with a score of 4.35
Least Favorite in the series: Exhume with a score of 4.01
Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Library Thing and Amazon (US & UK)
Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman threaded her half-circle number-five suture needle, the kind normally used in orthopedic surgery.
Annabelle Schwartzman: Medical examiner for the San Francisco police department
Hal Harris: Homicide detective for the San Francisco police department
Harper Leighton: Homicide detective for the Charleston, South Carolina police department
Ava Schwartzman: Annabelle’s aunt
Hailey Wyatt: Homicide detective with the San Francisco police department
Spencer Henry MacDonald: Annabelle’s estranged husband
San Francisco, and South Carolina
Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman has finally found a place to belong. As the medical examiner for the San Francisco Police Department, working alongside homicide detective Hal Harris, she uncovers the tales the dead can’t tell about their final moments. It is a job that gives her purpose—and a safe haven from her former life at the hands of an abusive husband. Although it’s been seven years since she escaped that ordeal, she still checks over her shoulder to make sure no one is behind her.
Schwartzman’s latest case is deeply troubling: the victim bears an eerie resemblance to herself. What’s more, a shocking piece of evidence suggests that the killer’s business is far from over—and that Schwartzman may be in danger.
Looking for a review of Exhume? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.23 out of 5 stars based on 3,323 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 4.32 out of 5 stars based on 183 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 3.93 out of 5 stars based on 10,001 ratings
Library Thing Rating: 3.60 out of 5 stars based on 10 ratings
Total Score 4.01 (Updated 10/4/17)
Listed #92 out of 121 on Goodreads Forensic Fiction Book List
Listed #104 out of 172 on Goodreads Science Thriller Book List
The victim was a white male, late thirties.
Medical examiner Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman was not meant to be idle, which is why she’s back at a murder scene even while reeling from recent chemotherapy treatments. Having undergone a double mastectomy, all she wants to do is dive back into her medical examiner job. It’s a gruesome world, yet Schwartzman takes comfort in its science and precision.
But the crime she’s dealing with brings her right back to the cancer ward: the victim is her own oncologist, dead from ingesting the very chemical used to fight her disease. Now, Schwartzman and homicide inspector Hal Harris must figure out why and stop the culprit before he can act again.
For Schwartzman, the case becomes even more personal. Her abusive ex, Spencer, who’s in prison and seemingly out of the picture, is never far from Annabelle’s mind. But to solve the mystery behind the death of the doctor who saved her life, she’s got to put aside everything else.
Amazon Rating-US: 4.57 out of 5 stars based on 98 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 4.39 out of 5 stars based on 23 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 4.32 out of 5 stars based on 718 ratings
Library Thing Rating: not rated
Total Score 4.35 (Updated 10/4/17)
#3-Expose (Expected release date 7/24/18)
Driving through Golden Gate Park on the way to a scene, Schwartzman notices a Jeep stopped on the quiet park roads. Inside, a young boy is laughing with his mother. She is dressed in a burka. It seems a little strange that the Jeep is still there when Schwartzman is heading home. The car is now empty.
When Schwartzman is called to the scene of a murder in the park the very next morning, she recognizes the woman from the Jeep. But there is no sign of the boy.
With a strange sense of having almost witnessed the woman’s death, Schwartzman feels an increased responsibility to this victim.
She and Hal must follow a bizarre trail where past meets present, to find the killer… and hope to save the young boy caught in the middle.
#4-Expire (Expected release date 2019)