Johnny's Reviews > The Resurrection Man

The Resurrection Man by Charlotte MacLeod
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Jun 21, 10

bookshelves: mystery
Read in June, 2010

As a regular mystery reader, it seems rare when yours truly falls for every “red herring” in the book. The Resurrection Man is one of those books that took me on exactly that wild ride. Generally, when I read Charlotte MacLeod’s work, I have a vague sense of where it is going. In this case, I locked onto the wrong suspect from the beginning and pegged another incorrect suspect as that suspect’s accomplice. I haven’t been so off-base since arguing with my father as a teenager.
Normally, MacLeod’s work has a calming effect on me. I love the way the aristocratic Sarah Kelling Bittersohn goes about solving a mystery in much the way that an event planner would prepare for an “occasion.” One senses that etiquette and proper deportment are the keys to solving crimes. I probably wouldn’t enjoy novels where Sarah was the primary protagonist, but there is a nice counterpoint with Max Bittersohn. To be sure, Max isn’t the gun-toting, martial arts-style gumshoe, either. He is more akin to a private sector Allen Dulles than a James Bond, more like television’s Charley than one of Charley’s Angels. Max solves crimes with his thorough knowledge of art and craftsmanship combined with his exquisite network of sources and operatives.
As a result, one never knows where the breakthrough in a Bittersohn/Kelling mystery may occur. It may occur via Sarah’s access to society’s Blue Book or it may occur via Max’s contacts. Regardless, the mysteries are superbly crafted and present delightful impressions of the Boston upper crest, as well as art world. The Resurrection Man is an eponymous reference to an artist who specializes in restoration work. Capable of doing museum quality restoration, he has assembled an atelier to cater to the needs of upper class clients who own near-museum quality (and sometimes, actual museum quality) pieces. He rules his atelier like a medieval guild and seems to take no chances with his colleagues/guild members. He wears stereotypical artists’ garb as an affectation and deals with his wealthy clients in a mysterious manner. Long before anything untoward happens in the novel, one finds oneself wanting to know more about this man and what he is doing.
There are other mysteries to garner one’s attention, though. One character is a George Prothero. The reader doesn’t meet this character until after he is dead, but there is a marvelous side mystery as to why he incurred a disease in India that nearly killed him as a young man and left him tremendously indolent (and, as a result, corpulent) for the rest of his life. One finds oneself trying to figure out if the illness from so long ago had anything to do with his death.
Add to this mix a series of break-ins, an Asian who insists in running around town in a bright red jogging suit, and the usual assortment of strange relatives and family secrets. What you get is a heady effort at detection that took this reviewer for a wild ride. I do assure you that you won’t turn into a Toad if you take it.
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