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Anatomist's Apprentice, The [Paperback]

Tessa Harris
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 27 2011 Dr. Thomas Silkstone Mysteries
The death of Sir Edward Crick has unleashed a torrent of gossip through the seedy taverns and elegant ballrooms of Oxfordshire. No one mourns the dissolute young man - except his sister, the beautiful Lady Lydia Farrell. When her husband comes under suspicion of murder, she seeks expert help from Dr. Thomas Silkstone, a young anatomist from Philadelphia. Thomas arrived in England to study under its foremost surgeon, where his unconventional methods only add to his outsider status. Against his better judgment he agrees to examine Sir Edward's body. But the deeper the doctor's investigations go, the greater the risk that he will be consigned to the ranks of the corpses he studies -

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just okay for this reader April 5 2012
By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The Anatomist's Apprentice is the first (and debut) book in Tessa Harris's new series featuring Dr. Thomas Silkstone.

I initially picked up the book based on the description - 18th century, London, England, mystery, early forensic detection, as it seemed to fall into one of my favourite genres - historical mysteries.

Lady Lydia Farrell's brother dies a horrible death in his own bed. Was he the victim of some unknown condition? Or was helped along the way to his Maker - by her husband? She seeks the advice of a well known anatomist - Dr. Silkstone - hoping he can shed light on what really happened to her brother. Silkstone uses his medical skills, but also seems to have a keen eye and ear for ferreting out details about situations and people that may reveal the truth.

The Anatomist's Apprentice is a period piece and as such, it does move at a more leisurely pace in terms of plot, development and language. I sometimes wanted to hurry things along. Harris's historical research was very well done and showed in the details. Where the book fell down for me was the whole romantic entanglement between Silkstone and Lady Lydia. It started to fall into bodice ripper territory for me (a place I try not to go). Once I found out who the publisher was - Kensington Books - it made sense.

Harris does deliver a good twist at the end. She has two further books planned for Silkstone. This will appeal to readers who would enjoy, in the words of the author "...a cracking yarn interwoven with a love story, set against a fascinating historical backdrop."
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not Cut Sharply Enough March 5 2014
By Bernie Koenig TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I love the 18th century and I love 18th century literature. I have even written about the philosophical foundations of the early novel. And I love the use of early science in crime solving.

The basic idea of the book is good but I felt the execution a bit lacking.

We get all the science we need and we get a good mystery, but I thought the way Harris handled the red herrings couod have been better. It was as if her outline now said "time to add this" whether it fir or not.

And the potboiler ending was a bit forced.

Not a bad read but it should have been better.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A first time novel well worth the wait! Aug. 28 2012
By NicoleK
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this book! It is a fabulous debut novel by a very talented writer. Author Tessa Harris has done a tremendous job of recreating the world of 18th century London and the newly emerging field of forensic medicine. The Anatomist`s Apprentice is a fast paced story of murder and intrigue and every time I thought I knew who the guilty party was, I was proven wrong. Full of twists and turns right until the end, it is a novel that I couldn`t put down. I was drawn into the world of Dr. Silkstone right from the get go and remained gripped by his worldview until the very last page. I very much look forward to reading the next installment of the Dr. Silkstone`s mysteries. Well done!!!
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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  127 reviews
40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written, poorly edited, poorly researched July 29 2012
By RadDoc - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I could not complete reading this book because of the poor writing and incorrect anatomic details. Besides, I had just finished reading a C.S. Harris Sebastian St. Cyr novel and had a Jefferson Bass novel on hand to start--no need to suffer through this book any further! I found some of the descriptive details odd and poorly done (Oxford described as a series of knucklebones joined by the tendon of river??). The few day-old corpse's mouth filling with corpse wax-wrong location and much too early. Regarding anatomic accuracy--among other things, it is inexcusable to state the aorta brings freshly oxygenated blood to the lungs in a book that is supposed to be about anatomy--especially when earlier in the book the correct role of the aorta in destributing oxygenated blood from the heart to the body was noted (in case you're interested, the pulmonary artery carries blood from the right ventricle to the lungs, and the pulmonary VEINS bring the now oxygenated blood back to the left atrium, from which it flows into the left ventricle and is pumped from the into the aorta and into the body). The above two writers are far more knowledgable and are far better writers-and the St. Cyr books are set in Regency England, if you want very well-researched and written historic details. There were several places incorrect words were used; "reprehended" where "reprimanded" was obviously meant was only one instance. Like other reviewers, I noticed forced attempts to incorporate quaint period words without success. The story was just not believable and it was unpleasant to read-so I stopped midway through the book, which I will now happily return to the library.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A cut above... Jan. 9 2012
By Quixote010 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Rating: 4.5 stars

One of the more interesting books I have enjoyed recently is this one...not so much for any one thing I can put my finger on, but for a variety of reasons.

To begin, I especially enjoyed the author's sense of the period. Readers will not be overwhelmed with detailed regarding England in the late 1700s, but there are enough references to attitudes, personalities and the general environment to pull one into the era. As noted into overview, Thomas Silkstone Is an brilliant anatomist, educated in Philedelphia, who has come to London to continue his studies and lecture. Recognized as perhaps the best anatomist in England (although we never really are told how he obtains that distinction,) he is approached by one Lady Lydia Farrell to determine the death of her brother.

Readers should not be fooled into thinking that Silkstone is an early version of Sherlock Holmes. On the contrary, whereas Holmes uses his skills of observation for deduction, Silkstone depends upon science to ascertain his findings. By incorporating the limitations and understandings of the time, one can imagine The good doctor struggling by candle light to dissect cadavers before the natural heat decomposes the body. It is Holmes' brilliance at deducing people that makes him successful. Sillkstone's brilliance stems from deducing science.

I also liked that Silkstone has heart. Unlike many super sleuths (Holmes of course) He not only wants to find the answer because of his scientific nature, but because he is attracted to Lady Farrell. That combination makes his quest for finding the answers he seeks more personal.

I was also drawn to the book because of the characters. Some, like Sir Theodisius the inquiring coroner, may be too Dickensonian, but Silkstone's mentor Dr. Carruthers and Professor Hans Hascher of Christ Church College are quite imaginary.

This is not a deeply inquisitive and complicated book, but for readers enjoying period pieces with interesting characters and situations, then I think they will enjoy it. I very much look forward to more tales involving Dr. Silkstone in the colonies and abroad.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars (3.5 stars) "A good corpse is like a fillet of beef- tender to the touch and easy to eat." Dec 27 2011
By Luan Gaines - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Harris sets her tale in 1780 London and Oxfordshire, England, where the shocking death of young Lord Crick unleashes a barrage of gossip and innuendo. Writhing in agony as he breathes his last, Crick's unearthly screams leave the household reverberating with tension and suspicion, most of which falls on the young man's brother-in-law, Captain Michael Farrell, who will inherit the estate. Wracked with grief, Lady Lydia Farrell visits Dr. Thomas Silkstone, an anatomist from Philadelphia studying in London. At twenty-five, Silkstone is pioneering the field of forensic detection, the perfect candidate for Lady Lydia's request to have the cause of her brother's death determined- and whether her husband is implicated in the horrific event. Thus begins the systematic unraveling of a mystery that culminates in deadly conflicts and long-buried secrets.

While timing the pace of her novel to fit the era, the slow and precise evolution of the story is perhaps its biggest obstacle- one that is belied by an action-filled second half and an ample supply of devious characters and suspicious circumstances. Once the young anatomist is fully involved in the case- and more than a little enamored of the lovely Lady Lydia- the action accelerates until the final denouement. To be fair, Harris is grounding her tale in the history of anatomy and the scientific community, not to mention the reluctant embrace of new theories by an entrenched status quo. The protagonist is engaging, a blend of scientist and gentleman unskilled in the devious nature of his fellow humans, but certainly a quick study. It remains to be seen whether Harris will flesh out her forensic detective Dr. Thomas Silkstone in a projected series. Luan Gaines/2011.
36 of 45 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sad Literary Trade Off Feb. 22 2012
By ChristmasBaby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I received this book in a book club deal, choosing it for its subject matter, historical milieu, and mystery genre. Generally, I make a judgment about the quality of a novel in the first 10 pages, and in this case, The Anatomists' Apprentice struck me as poorly written, cliche-ridden, florid in places, and more bodice-ripper in tone than a mystery. Finishing the book, my initial opinion was unchanged. I continued reading because of the medical intricacies, and not for the poorly named characters (a melodramatic nod to Dickens?), the predictable plot, or for a main character, Dr. Silkstone, who seemed more a device than a person of substance. Finally, I found that there was a literary trade off--a story poorly written in exchange for period accuracy and an interesting and fascinating chronicle of the discoveries of a "medical examiner", or anatomist of that age. It could have been so much more--more mature, more provocative, more engaging, deeper characters, better written (where was her editor in this???) and more genuine. Writing historical fiction, done well by authors skilled in writing as well as weaving their story into the social conventions, culture and physical world of the period (Anne Perry, Ken Follett, Ariana Franklin for example), compel readers to want more, to follow the evolution of the main characters, and invest in their adventures. Where Harris cheated readers most was giving the us interesting period and medical details book-ended by poor writing and cliched characters. It wasn't horrible, it just left me feeling profoundly disappointed. Sadly, I can't recommend this novel.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Like slogging though mud April 19 2013
By MysteryLover - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Historcal mysteries is one of my favorite genres, so I was really looking forward to reading this. I was sorely disappointed. As my title states, reading this book was like slogging through mud, tedious, tiresome, and very unpleasant. I found it odd that whenever the author describes Lady Lydia Farrell, she seems to be a real shrinking violet - delicate, tiny, a victim of an unhappy marriage. She doesn't trust him, isn't sure she still loves him, yet there are several scenes where she is comforting her husband and is standing strong by his side. I don't know anything about autopsies, but the author seems to have a fascination with the gruesome details - she loves describing the horror of the rotting flesh, the maggots, the odors, etc. These details do not add to the enjoyment of the story, and actually detract from the plot - but perhaps that is a good thing, because there isn't much plot anyway. It's basically the story of a lecherous aristocrat whose earlier antics left him with a social disease, who dies under mysterious circumstances. Nearly every character has a reason to want him dead. But the problem is that by the time I got halfway through the book, I couldn't care less how he died, much less who did it. There are very few books I don't finish, but this was one of them.

If you want to read a good historical mystery series, try any of the following (in no particular order):

Carole Nelson Douglas - Irene Adler series
Anne Perry - Thomas & Charlotte Pitt series, and William Monk series
Elizabeth Peters - Amelia Peabody (Egyptian archeologist) series
Suzanne Arruda - Jade del Cameron series
Rhys Bowen - Molly Murphy series
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