Danielle Girard’s Dr. Schwartzman Series

About the author:


B.A. – Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

M.F.A.– Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina

Website: http://www.daniellegirard.com/

Thriller Sub-genre: Forensic, Crime Thriller

Future of the series: The latest book in the series, The Ex, was released on 5/31/22.

My Review of the latest in the series Expire

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.

Cascade event after EGF binding (Image from Wikimedia Common)

“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: Expire with a score of 4.55

Least Favorite in the series: Exhume with a score of 4.04

Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Library Thing and Amazon (US & UK)

#1-Exhume- 2016

First Line:

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

The Setting

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:

Read With Me

Awesome Book Assessment

Happily Ever After

Lori Ericson, Author

Jana Avenue


Caitstiel’s Book World

Amazon Rating-US: 4.28 out of 5 stars based on 3,965 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.32 out of 5 stars based on 209 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 3.97 out of 5 stars based on 14,339 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.37 out of 5 stars based on 23 ratings

Total Score 4.04 (Updated 8/9/19)



#2-Excise- 2017

Listed #92 out of 121 on Goodreads Forensic Fiction Book List

Listed #104 out of 172 on Goodreads Science Thriller Book List

My Review of Excise

First Line:

The victim was a white male, late thirties.


Annabelle Schwartzman, Hal Harris, Harper Leighton, and Spencer Henry MacDonald

The Setting

San Francisco, and South Carolina

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: 4.51 out of 5 stars based on 312 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.26 out of 5 stars based on 41 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.26 out of 5 stars based on 2,829 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.63 out of 5 stars based on 4 ratings

Total Score 4.28 (Updated 8/9/19)


#3-Expose- 2018

My Review of Expose

First Line:

Schwartzman wound her way along the empty, deserted roads of Golden Gate Park.


Annabelle Schwartzman, Hal Harris, and Spencer Henry MacDonald

The Setting

San Francisco, and South Carolina

With her vindictive ex-husband out of prison, San Francisco medical examiner Annabelle Schwartzman is trying harder than ever to move on with her life—by focusing on her job to speak for the victims who can’t. Summoned to a homicide in Golden Gate Park, she realizes that she’d seen the victim just hours before, alive and well in a parked Jeep with a small boy. Now, the woman has been stabbed to death and stripped of her burka, and the child is nowhere to be found.

When an African American student is found dead, bearing knife wounds identical to those of the woman in the park, the press jumps on them as hate crimes. If only they were so easy to explain. There is a connection—but Schwartzman believes it’s something even worse. Her fears are confirmed with the discovery of the next victim.

Now, to stop a vicious killer whose work has only just begun, Schwartzman and Detective Hal Harris must untangle the twisted thread that links it all to the missing boy and a crime buried in the past.

She let out a cry, her head lolling to expose her long, creamy neck to the camera.

Looking for a review of Expose?  Check out:

Paper Line

Amazon Rating-US: 4.50 out of 5 stars based on 295 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.40 out of 5 stars based on 28 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.48 out of 5 stars based on 1,612 ratings

Library Thing Rating: not rated

Total Score 4.48 (Updated 8/9/19)


#4-Expire- 2019

My Review of Expire

San Francisco medical examiner Annabelle Schwartzman has spent eight years looking over her shoulder. Stalked by her vengeful ex-husband, Spencer, she’s always known they’d meet again. Has her nightmare come true? Abducted, blindfolded, yoked, and tethered, she’s being held prisoner in an isolated cabin in Idaho. But it’s the unknown that terrifies Annabelle now. Because the man’s voice in the dark, though eerily familiar, is not Spencer’s.

Annabelle’s partner and lover, Inspector Hal Harris, knows in his gut that Annabelle’s disappearance is tied to the past. Except Spencer is fifteen hundred miles away. To save Annabelle, Hal is tracking every move Spencer makes. But is it drawing him closer to finding Annabelle? Or is it luring him farther from her desperate cries for help?

As a cruel game of retribution begins, Annabelle must rely on her wits, her will to survive, and a plan of escape. But time is running out. And her captor’s three chilling words make her fear that the worst is yet to come: sweet dreams, Bella.

Amazon Rating-US: 4.69 out of 5 stars based on 94 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.75 out of 5 stars based on 15 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.52 out of 5 stars based on 623 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.50 out of 5 stars based on 2 ratings

Total Score 4.55 (Updated 8/9/19)


#5-The Ex- 2022

Seven years after making her escape from an abusive marriage, Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman is settling into her position as medical examiner in the city of San Francisco. Doing what she loves, she can almost put the trauma of her past behind her. Until she confronts the case of a young woman, sixteen weeks pregnant.

Everything about the case says the woman took her own life. As hard as Schwartzman tries to make peace with the evidence in her head, something about the case won’t leave her alone. She’s all too aware of how similar the circumstances are to her own past. After all, she, too, was once sixteen weeks pregnant…

Going beyond her role in the morgue, Schwartzman digs into the boyfriend’s past, determined to find the truth behind the woman’s death, a fate she knows could easily have been her own.