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Forensic Autopsies

Autopsies to study anatomy were performed in Alexandria at least as early as the third century BCE. But the first report of a forensic autopsy, an autopsy to determine cause of death, was not performed until March 15, 44 BCE, when Julius Caesar was stabbed by Roman senators and bled to death. The autopsy found twenty-three stab wounds but determined that only the wound under the left shoulder blade was fatal.

We first meet Professor Jason, a leprously pale, thin-lipped, soldierly built man, in The Deadliest Deceptions, a collection of Miriam bat Isaac short stories to be released this fall. He’s a professor in Alexandria’s famous medical school charged with performing forensic autopsies whenever the case baffles the authorities. Probably because he’s so often correct, he is scorned by his colleagues for his unorthodox conclusions.

He meets Miriam at his building’s vine-covered gate but once inside, warns her of the political pressures that confront him in the case Miriam has brought him:

Passing through the hallways flanked by vivisection laboratories that exuded a faint fecal odor and storerooms that shelved flasks of every shape and size, the professor stopped at a rude plank door. He unlocked the door and ushered me in.

“You see,” he explained, “my appointment here is funded by the government, and as such, I enjoy many privileges, not the least of which is an exemption from the poll tax. And, as I’m sure you know, I failed to endorse the magistrates’ latest findings.”

I can’t say the stories in The Deadliest Deceptions will prepare you for the political pressures of the here and now, but I can guarantee that you will escape them as you read any of the Miriam bat Isaac light mysteries. To choose one, click here.


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