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The Anatomists

by Hal McDonald

      This is an interesting and atmospheric puzzle set in pre-Victorian London. Edward Montague and Jean-Claude Legard are medical students in the days when learning about the human body through dissection meant dealing with illegal resurrectionsts to rob graves. While the public is horrified at the practice, the authorities generally look the other way so long as it's done as unobtrusively as possible. That changes when Edward and Jean-Claude nearly get caught examining the grave their current purchase came from, upon the discovery that this was a murder victim... despite there being no such murder reported in the press. An even bigger shock awaits them when they learn that the grave was supposed to be the final resting place for someone else entirely - society widow Mrs. Abigail Darcy - who is certainly not the mustachioed body they possess. They decide (well, Jean-Claude decides, and then easily convinces Edward) to investigate, first simply in the name of justice, to expose the murder and its perpetrator, but they are drawn in further by the ever increasing mysteries behind Mrs. Darcy's death and how it ties in with the body they purchased from her grave.

You can practically taste, feel, and touch the London streets you follow Edward and Jean-Claude through in their investigations, and the puzzle is an interesting one, with a satisfying, if not wholly unpredictable solution. The writing is smooth and the action fast paced. My one real problem with the book is that it's filled with some of the most irritating characters I've recently spent time with, starting with Edward and Jean-Claude themselves (albeit for different reasons). Now how irritating you find people is largely a matter of personal taste and tolerance - I'm not always a fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories which are clearly amongst the inspirations for this tale, in part because of similar irritations (although I have to admit that I find these characters more irritating). Which means they may not have the same effect on you. So if you're in the market for a highly atmospheric historical thriller built around an unusual and interesting puzzle, give this a shot.

The Book

Harper Mystery
April 2008
Mass Market Paperback
Historical Thriller - London 1825
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NOTE: Winner of truTV 2007 Search for the Next Great Crime Writer

The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2008
© 2008