Doctor Knife (Marni Scofidio)

Doctor Knife is a novella by Marni Scofidio.
Finished on: 19.11.2022
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewe give-away.]

Content Note: rape, fatmisia, [critical treatment of] racism

Leonora is desperately looking for a job as her current live-in situation is becoming untenable. Since her options are limited because she doesn’t currently have a visa, she is very glad when she finds a job ad for a housekeeping job with Dr Nye and her husband Duncan. Even though the two are a little odd, the job comes with a room to live in and is exactly what she needs. But things become more and more difficult for Leonora.

Doctor Knife is a rather good read. I wouldn’t have wanted it to be longer, and I thought the ending was a little much, but it definitely had me hooked.

The book cover showing a row of mannequins in black and white. The image is turned sideways.

Doctor Knife is very clear in the many vulnerabilities that Leonora faces (and she isn’t the only one): poor, without legal status and no connections in the city, she is dependant on the people around her. Dependant on their good-will and good intentions and their circumstances. If she hadn’t been as vulnerable, she probably wouldn’t have ended up in the bad situation. That she continually talks about Dr Nye’s fatness in a very disgusted way was offensive though. That Nye is fat was not why she was “problematic”.

Scofidio’s prose is evocative and especially strong in the beginning of the novella where Leonora’s loneliness and desperation drip off every page. Later the plot gets more attention than the prose, I think. And the plot, or rather it’s solution, didn’t work for me that well. It was very fitting for the horror genre, but until then the book had more of a thriller vibe and so the ending was a little jarring for me. I started wondering about feasibility – which I doubt I would have if I felt that the first part was more “horror-y”. But of course, genre limits are fluid and your mileage will probably vary about that.

I loved that we got a quick sapphic love story in the novella as well, though I would have liked a happier ending for the two of them. Then again, the book definitely does not end happily whether romance or not, so it was definitely out of the question in that context. At least we got a bit of sweetness in between the gruesome stuff.

Summarizing: if you like horror, go for it.


  1. Thank you for your very insightful review and for taking the time to write about my work. It’s very interesting as well to see how viewpoints about body image can change over time, and sometimes in a positive way, which is encouraging. Very best wishes.

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