Ronald Roseborough's Reviews > The Anatomy of Ghosts

The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew  Taylor
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's review
Dec 20, 2010

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bookshelves: historical-fiction, murder, mystery, mystery-adventure-thriller
Read in December, 2010

This is the story of John Holdsworth, a down and out bookseller in late eighteenth century England, who has recently lost his young son to a drowning accident. This is soon followed by the suicide by drowning of his despondent wife. He had written a book entitled, "The Anatomy of Ghosts" to try and shake his wife free of the belief that she could communicate with her dead son through a charlatan medium. John's attempt to bring her back to reality only exacerbated the problem and may have driven her over the edge. The first third of this novel thus moves at a somber pace. Things begin to look up for John and us when he is saved from a downward spiral, by the request of a Lady Anne Oldershaw to catalog her deceased husband's library in preparation for donating it to Cambridge University. There is a catch, however. Lady Anne's son, Frank, who had been attending Jerusalem College, has suddenly insisted that he has seen a ghost, had a breakdown and has been committed to a doctor's care. As Holdsworth seems to be an expert on debunking ghosts, Lady Anne wants him to bring her son back to her and cure him of these foolish and dangerous thoughts. Here the story switches to the life in the college and mystery surrounding Frank's encounter with his ghost. The author sets the scene and mood of the story nicely with a myriad of details of late eighteenth century English life in the cities and colleges of the time. The pace of the book is slow at first, but picks up as the cast of characters and story unfold. There are a number of interesting plot lines and twists to keep our interest until the grand denouement. I found the book a bit long. It would perhaps have benefited from some tighter plotting, but overall was an enjoyable read with enough tragedy, romance, mystery, and intrigue for everyone. This book was provided for review by the good folks at Hyperion books.
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