Strong-minded and ambitious, Madeleine Karno is eager to shatter the constraints of her provincial French upbringing. She wants to become a pathologist like her father, whose assistant she is, but this is 1894, and autopsies are considered unseemly and ungodly, even when performed by a man-hence his odious nickname, Doctor Death. That a young woman should wish to spend her time dissecting corpses is too scandalous for words.
Thus, when seventeen-year-old Cecile Montaine is found dead in the snowy streets of Varbourg, her family will not permit a full post-mortem autopsy, and Madeleine and her father are left with a single mysterious clue: in the dead girl's nostrils they find a type of parasite normally seen only in dogs. Soon after, the priest who held vigil by the dead girl's corpse is brutally murdered. The thread that connects these two events is a tangled one, and as the death toll mounts, Madeleine must seek knowledge in odd places: behind convent walls, in secret diaries, and in the yellow stare of an aging wolf.
Eloquently written and with powerful insight into human and animal nature, Doctor Death is at once a gripping mystery and a poignant coming-of-age story.