The Anatomist's Apprentice Paperback – Jan 1 2012
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About the Author
Tessa Harris, an English author born in Lincolnshire, holds a history degree from Oxford University. After four years of working with local newspapers, she set her sights on women s magazines. She is regularly heard on local BBC radio and over the years has interviewed such people as Margaret Thatcher, Jeffrey Archer, Anthony Hopkins, Susan Hampshire, Alan Titchmarsh, Jackie Stewart, Boris Johnson, and Uri Geller. She lives in Berkshire with her husband and their two children.
Top Customer Reviews
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."
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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