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The Anatomist's Apprentice
Dr Silkstone Mystery #1
Tessa Harris

Constable (Constable and Robinson)
2 July 2015 / ISBN 9781472118639

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde


Young and dissolute Lord Edward Crick has died suddenly from possible poisoning, or was it merely a reaction to his medicine for the pox? His sister Lady Lydia is keen to discover what happened and prevent rumors from circulating about her husband, the dashing but previously impoverished Captain Michael Farrell. In order to do this she needs somebody who can look at the body and find out how her brother died. Forensics is a very new science and practiced by few, but Dr. Thomas Silkstone is one of the new breed of anatomists and willing to help. Trouble is it might be the last thing he does.

Set in 1780 this first entry in a new series is the forerunner to all those books and TV series where forensics solves the crime. Thomas is lately come from Philadelphia with pioneering new knowledge and is under the tutelage (and sharing the lodgings) of Dr. Carruthers, another such practitioner before he lost his sight. What follows is an intriguing look at the early days of this science, as well as what initially looks like an open and shut case but is anything but. Paired with all this is a good look at life in the last 18th century with all its sights, smells and current affairs, a time when medicine was crude, Americans fighting for independence and hangings a popular attraction. There is a love story in here too, but fortunately although it is a part of the plot it is not allowed to overshadow the mystery and forensics. The latter makes for some gory but fascinating reading as Thomas uses his limited resources to discover whodunit and how. In short there is a lot in here to appeal, plenty of surprises and a good way to find out about the first uses of forensic science in crime solving. The best news is that this is just the first book; I look forward to more.

Reviewed 2015