Cornerofmadness's Reviews > The Anatomist's Apprentice

The Anatomist's Apprentice by Tessa Harris
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's review
Mar 01, 2012

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bookshelves: mystery, historical
Read in March, 2012

This mystery is set in the 1700’s just as the Revolutionary War kicks off. Dr. Thomas Silkstone is from the Colonies but has returned to England to study medicine. These are the days where doctors paid crooks to bring them bodies for dissection and forensic science is pretty much non-existent. Thomas is a young man studying under a doctor who has lost his sight but is still a font of knowledge. He’s also lecturing at the academy. He’s approached by a student to help his cousin, Lady Lydia Farrell, whose brother, the lord of the manor, has died suspiciously (and avid mystery readers will pick up on the signs of poisoning before the characters do).

They didn’t have easy tests for discovering poisons but Thomas does his best. After he convinces the inquest judge that this was not a natural death, the unexpected happens (or not so unexpected really) Lydia’s Irish wastrel of a husband is blamed. Lord Farrell isn’t a particularly likeable man. He hated Lydia’s brother, he wanted to be lord of the manor, he doesn’t have any real money of his own and his one real achievement was being a captain in the British army in India where his friend Lavington was maimed. Farrell does take care of Lavington, putting him up in a cottage. Lavington’s face is marred (including having an ivory nose) and he is lame and between the two of them, gambling seems to be their main hobbies.

While it’s not clear if Farrell is guilty, it doesn’t go very well for him. It’s also obvious quickly that Lydia’s brother was a very bad man and several people including the servants and Lavington might want him gone. It doesn’t help that Thomas and Lydia fall for each other in a predictable love triangle sort of way.

Overall, the mystery is entertaining. I liked that Thomas has a pet rat. I wasn’t thrilled with the love story part. It seemed so unnecessary and sort of forced. And two mysteries in a row I’m forced to say, the end was needlessly convoluted. I would have actually preferred the more obvious villain because he made much more sense. There were some things that puzzled me, like why did this book even have a clunky prologue? It’s info that reappears in the chapters very early on. It’s so clunky I would have thought it from a self-published work but this isn’t so it surprises me some editor let it by. Also, I’m not sure why Ms Harris is so thrilled about lacteals. She has Thomas examining those creamy white tubes again and again but, and here’s where being both a doctor and anatomist ruins it for me, I’m not sure what she’s actually describing. I’ve never seen lacteals that looked like that. In fact they’re inside the villi of the small intestine so he’d have to open up the small intestine, then open up the villus before they can be seen and it wouldn’t look like that. Oh well. It’s not a bad story but it’s not great. I might check out another one if this became a series.

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