Review: Deadly by Julie Chibbaro


Title: Deadly

Author: Julie Chibbaro

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 978-0689857393


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Join the search for Typhoid Mary in this early twentieth-century CSI. Now in paperback!

Prudence Galewski doesn’t belong in Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls. She doesn’t want an “appropriate” job that makes use of refinement and charm. Instead, she is fascinated by how the human body works—and why it fails.

Prudence is lucky to land a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of a mysterious fever. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, Prudence explores every potential cause of the disease to no avail—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. But she’s never been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in solving one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century? 


When I first sat down with Deadly, I was just a bit apprehensive.  The first few pages didn’t exactly grab me, and I was afraid I was in for a slow, dull read.  My apprehension quickly disappeared.  This book is fantastic, and I quickly started looking at the world in a whole new way.  Bacteria?  What an interesting organism!  When Prudence was finally allowed a peek through a microscope, her enthusiasm was contagious.  What is this tiny, living thing that makes people so ill?  Just like Prudence, I longed to learn more about typhoid fever and how to stop its persistent spread through 1906 New York.

I love a book that does make me think, and Deadly is one of those books.  Prudence is such a smart young woman, curious about science and the human body, but because she is woman, her inquisitive nature is destined to go nowhere.  She is enrolled at a school to learn how to run a household and be a proper wife, which bores her to tears.  She wants to do something meaningful; she wants to help people, so nobody else has to watch a loved one die of illness. When she is hired to work at the Department of Health and Sanitation, she is given an outlet for her curiosity.  Hired because of her neat penmanship and ability to type, she is quickly challenged to use her mind, too.  Her supervisor’s current task is to find the cause of the typhoid fever outbreak and put an end to it before anyone else dies of the disease.

Deadly is a character driven book, and what characters it has!  I loved Prudence, despite her cool reserve.  She isn’t one to easily show her emotions, but she is constantly plagued by them.  Because she wants to make a good impression on her new coworkers, she won’t allow herself to appear weak or womanly before them.  Instead, she’s all business; she wants to prove that she is worthy of her new position, and she devotes herself to assisting Mr. Soper.  She is also still hurting from her brother’s death and the disappearance of her father, who is missing in action from the Spanish American War.  Because of these losses, she is reluctant to risk being hurt again, so she keeps a wall around her emotions.

As Mr. Soper and Prudence begin to suspect that an Irish immigrant is responsible for the outbreak of typhoid, Prudence is assailed with moral and ethical questions.  Is it right to forcibly isolate Mary for the public good?  Do the ends always justify the means?  These questions had me Googling so many issues brought up in the novel.  How could a healthy person spread a disease they never had? What happened to Mary after the events in the book?  How did the typhoid outbreak end?  The book left me with lots of questions that I wanted answers for.  The mere idea that installing toilets in separate rooms at boarding houses made me realize how far medical advances have come in just over 100 years.  Indoor plumbing cut down on the transmission of so many diseases, and yet there are still millions of people without the luxury of toilets!

If you are looking for an engrossing, intelligent read, look no further than Deadly.  Peopled with wonderful, intriguing characters, this book will make you think differently about science and medicine.  I could not put it down, and when I wasn’t reading it, I was telling other people about it, and discussing germs with them.  Much like the bacteria researched in the story, Deadly will get under your skin, without all of the yucky side effects of typhoid!

Grade:  A

Review copy provided by {teen} book scene


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