Book: The Doctor Digs a Grave

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The Doctor Digs a Grave

Author: Robin Hathaway
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Available for house calls— and homicide…

When cardiologist Dr. Andrew Fenimore isn’t mending weak hearts, he’s solving crimes in Philadelphia’s wealthy Society Hill. But murder is the last thing the good doctor expects when he befriends a teenage boy trying to bury his dead cat. As the two dig a grave for the cat’s final resting place in a vacant lot— which happens to be an ancient burial ground— they discover a fresh corpse, buried feet flexed, facing east, according to Lenape Indian tradition.

Fenimore’s P.I. pastime starts to become a distinct health hazard as he and his young sidekick follow the trail of the deceased young woman straight to the son of a colleague, one of Philadelphia’s most prominent surgeons. Surely the scion of a fine old Philadelphia family and his Indian fiancee ignited some powerful passions. But are they enough to risk trying for the perfect murder in a place where civility rules with an iron fist in a velvet glove?


St. Martin’s Press nourishes the mystery genre’s roots by giving out an annual Malice Domestic Award for what it labels “Best First Traditional Mystery.” The hero of its 1997 winner would certainly seem to fit that category: at first glance, Dr. Andrew Fenimore could come straight from a book by Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers. A Philadelphia physician who dabbles in criminal investigation, Dr. Fenimore manages to be both sharp and soothing as he digs, literally, into the mystery of why the body of a recently deceased young Native American woman came to be buried, sitting up, in an ancient tribal graveyard. It’s only as we become better acquainted with Dr. Fenimore and his colorful band of associates that we see what Robin Hathaway is really up to: she uses the boundaries of the traditional mystery to contain a very modern story about social and cultural change. But of course that’s also what Sayers and Christie were up to in their time. Welcome to the club, Robin Hathaway. —Dick Adler

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