The Anatomist's Apprentice

Title: The Anatomist’s Apprentice (Dr. Thomas Silkstone #1)

Author: Tessa Harris

Category: Mystery – Historical

Published: January 1, 2012

Rating: 2 out of 5

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Purchase: Amazon | IndieBound | Book Depository

The death of Lord Edward Crick has unleashed a torrent of gossip through the seedy taverns and elegant ballrooms of Oxfordshire. Few mourn 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 Lord Edward’s corpse. But it is not only the dead, but also the living, to whom he must apply the keen blade of his intellect. And the deeper the doctor’s investigations go, the greater the risk that he will be consigned to the ranks of the corpses he studies.

I wanted to like this one, I really did. In general, I like historical mysteries and expected this one, set in England in the 1780s to be enjoyable. The plot sounded good, the early foray into forensics, and a young doctor who is an outsider when it comes to British society had potential to be a worthwhile detective. But I was disappointed. I listened to all 9+ hours, but even the end couldn’t redeem it.

Reasons I wasn’t a fan (may contain a couple of spoilers):

  • Lydia – Really, how many times can one woman be described as fragile or delicate or doe-eyed. I actually hoped that her lack of backbone and her incapability of dealing with life would turn out to be a cover, that she was really somehow the killer. Alas, she wasn’t. And I’m not sure why Thomas is attracted to her, aside from her beauty and chestnut hair. MAybe it’s her helplessness and reliance on him. I didn’t understand her relationship with her husband – did she love her husband or not? She seemed to really not like him, not trust him. He was a gambler, womanizer, and, at least she thought, potential murderer, but then his death seemed to shatter her. Of course, beneath his marrying her for her money, he did seem to care about her. Maybe they were complex individuals and I just missed it.
  • The writing – It’s repetitious, both in word choice, as noted above and in the way the author constantly tells us the same thing twice, like telling us a character is confused and then having her say she doesn’t understand, or describing a warm liquid dripping from a wound and then having the character realize it must be blood. Secondly, it’s just too flowery, especially when it comes to describing body parts. I listened to the audio so it’s hard to mark similes to go back to later, but organs were described as exotic fruits, given human qualities like pride, it was just overly descriptive and, to be honest, not all the adjectives made sense to me in the context. Some of the scenes and transitions are odd too; a couple of times I had to check my player to make sure that it hadn’t skipped a section.
  • Thomas as a detective – Most of the clues that really mattered in the long run he discovered by chance and they had nothing to do with his dissections.
  • James Lavington, a friend of the Farrells – He was just too stereotypically evil. Not only is he a cruel man who Thomas dislikes at first sight, he was disfigured by an accident and has a scarred face and ivory nose. He’s the bad guy you can picture tying some poor helpless woman to the train track and then chortling. Once again, it’s just overdone. Actually, most of the characters are fairly one-dimensional.

Two things I did like:

  • The final solution to Crick’s murder. While I didn’t actually care about any of the characters, I will give the murderer credit for seeing a problem and coming up with the plan.
  • Simon Vance as narrator – He did an excellent job. I’m surprised I haven’t listened to any of the books read by him before.

At least I borrowed this one from the library and didn’t actually pay for it. I don’t think I’ll be picking up the sequel.

Maybe I’m being overly picky. Has anyone else read this one? Did you enjoy it?

Challenge: WAYR

Dr. Thomas Silkstone Series

  1. The Anatomist’s Apprentice
  2. The Dead Shall Not Rest