Historical Fiction: The Anatomist’s Apprentice, by Tess Harris

The Anatomist's Apprentice (A Dr. Thomas Silkstone Mystery #1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Anatomist’s Apprentice is the first in a new historical (18th century) mystery series, in which Dr. Thomas Silkstone applies his scientific studies of anatomy to solve crimes. In this debut, he is called to Oxford by the comely Lady Lydia, to do a postmortem on her dissolute brother, Lord Crick. Rumor has it that he was poisoned, and the favorite suspect of the gossips is Lydia’s husband.

It’s fun to read this mystery, written in the style of the old silent pictures in which the villains gnash their teeth and the heroine is a delicate damsel in need of manly protection. There’s plenty of period detail here, most amusingly the attitude of the English characters toward Silkstone, who’s a Yank (read “rebel”). It’s interesting to watch him figure out ways in which to find evidence by applying his powers of inference and deduction, and conducting experiments using his newly honed scientific skills. Supporting characters are colorful English “types”, and of course there’s a romance in the making. Some reviewers have compared Apprentice to The Alienist, but the latter is much more substantial and edgy.

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