Jessie: In New Hampshire where the crocuses are blooming!
I am so delighted to welcome Nancy Herriman to the blog today! We’ve known each other for a few years and are both members of The Sleuths in Time. Nancy writes historical mysteries that are intriguing and immersive. Leave a comment for a chance to win one of her Old San Francisco Mysteries. Take it away, Nancy!
First off, thanks to the Wickeds for having me back on their blog. This time, to celebrate the release of Book 6 in my A Mystery of Old San Francisco series, No Justice for the Deceived!
The field of medicine fascinates me, and I regularly feature medical people in my books. So, unsurprisingly, when it came time to develop the idea for a mystery series set in 1860s San Francisco, I gravitated toward my sleuth being a nurse. A woman whose occupation would regularly expose her to death and who might also recognize the signs of when a passing is not so natural.
In 1867, when my A Mystery of Old San Francisco series opens, numerous women worked in the field. They primarily were midwives and nurses, but a handful operated as self-styled physicians utilizing spiritual or water ‘cures.’ Even for those women offering traditional care, the training would have been sparse, the medical professions still ruled by men resisting the attempts of females to invade their territory.
Furthermore, nursing as an occupation was considered unsuitable for gently-raised women. Then again, most occupations were considered unsuitable for gently-raised women! Even through much of the American Civil War, nursing duties consisted primarily of women providing ‘female companionship.’ Viewed as fragile and possessing an inferior intellect, female nurses were generally restricted to simple chores–preparing and serving meals, bathing feverish foreheads, reading to the patients or writing letters for them. Any tasks resembling what we consider today to be the jobs of nurses were mostly left to male orderlies and doctors.
Change was underway, though. In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman in America to obtain a degree in medicine. Then, in 1850, the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania opened. Later, in 1861, the school’s role expanded to include the training of nurses, and it is at this school that my fictional sleuth, Celia Davies, receives her education.
Celia will put that education to good use when she opens a free clinic in San Francisco treating women of limited means. But when one of her patients dies suspiciously, Celia gets caught up in the world of crime detection. Trained to carefully observe and draw conclusions, she finds, much to her surprise, that that she is skilled at it. Much to the chagrin of one of the city’s police detectives, Nick Greaves. Soon they are collaborating on other cases, including the sudden death of a servant at a fancy masquerade ball being held in one of the finest parts of San Francisco.
I’m curious — what do you think of the use of nurses as sleuths? Do you enjoy mystery series that feature nurses or other medical professionals as sleuths? If not, why not?
A bit about No Justice for the Deceived:
At an opulent masquerade ball no one is who they’re pretending to be, but when the affair ends in death, Celia and Nick will have to unmask a killer . . .
Word of an upcoming engagement that will join two prominent families has tongues wagging among San Francisco society, but Celia worries the bride-to-be may be making a serious mistake. Her intended, a controlling man and a known womanizer, has recently been linked to a violent attack on a former mistress. When a hapless maid is poisoned at the party where the engagement was to be announced, Celia discovers that the fiancé was the intended victim.
Detective Nick Greaves is called to the scene to investigate the grim death and finds once again that Celia has already unearthed valuable clues. Working together to track down the would-be murderer, they soon determine that any number of people had reason to do away with the man. And when another young woman is found dead, Celia realizes that cornering the killer may expose a cruel truth at the heart of a wealthy family’s deceptions.
Nancy Herriman has fronted a cover band, acted on stage, and been employed in the tech industry as an engineer. Writing is her current and most long-lasting passion. Her work has won the Daphne du Maurier award, and Publishers Weekly says her ‘A Mystery of Old San Francisco’ series “…brings 1867 San Francisco to vivid life.” When not writing, she enjoys singing, gabbing about writing, and eating dark chocolate. Find more at www.nancyherriman.com.
Giveaway — a signed copy of any one of Books 1 through 5 in her Mystery of Old San Francisco series