Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Anatomist's Apprentice by Tessa Harris

The Anatomist's Apprentice is a new historical fiction/mystery novel that takes place in 18th-century England. After the death of her brother Sir Edward Crick, Lady Lydia Farrell enlists the help of anatomist Dr. Thomas Silkstone from Philadelphia hoping to squash some of the gossip about the death that's been running rampant through Oxfordshire. With some reservations, he agrees to look at the body. He'll need to call on all of his skills to not only examine the dead, but also suss out the killer.

I really enjoyed this book. It's not action packed, but it's got a great story and a fantastic protagonist. The story was intellectual, very compelling and wonderfully researched. Harris really gave me a sense of what 18th-century England was like. I felt like I was transported back to that time period. She also laid out vivid details about Dr. Silkstone's job as an anatomist, which emphasized how different their understanding of the human body was at that time.

With the language Harris used, it all felt very British and proper. However, some of the actions of the characters were anything but. There's also a little romance/seduction/lusting included in the story, but I don't think it was overdone. It was all good.

I loved Dr. Thomas Silkstone as the protagonist. He was methodical and looked for supporting facts before drawing conclusions. I loved that the author showed his tougher side when it came to death and his investigations and his softer side when it came to Lydia. Just when you think that Thomas has solved the case, there's yet another twist in the storyline. He was tenacious and just wouldn't quit until he had no nagging doubts about the case or loose ends to tie up.

Favourite quotes:
The body holds within it many secrets,. Each organ stores its own particular mysteries, ensconced deep within its membranes, hidden in tissue or stored in beefy cliffs of muscle. (page 188)

The book had quite a few new-to-me words. Here's a sampling (those marked with an asterisk are taken from the glossary): addlepated (page 20): stupid, confused
espaliered (page 60): tree growing against a wall
paphians and doxies (page 123): women of ill repute*
calumny (page 129): defamation
whisket (page 149): a basket
didicoy (page 150): a traveller with mixed Romani blood
suppurating (page 151): ooze pus
cutpurses (page 171): pickpocket
gallimaufry (page 191): hodgepodge
sobriquet (page 201): nickname
nostrum mongers (page 201): quacks who peddled false remedies for ailments*
mortsafe (page 261): an elaborate tomb to foil any attempts by grave robbers*
phaeton (page 310): a carriage drawn by a single horse or a pair*

I appreciated the glossary (ordered and separated by chapter) that the author included at the back of the book. I took full advantage of this and found definitions to many of the new-to-me words I encountered.

Highly recommended. I hope to read many more books by this author.

For more information about this book or to read the first chapter, please visit the Kensington Books website.

For more information about the author, please visit Tessa Harris's website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

The Anatomist's Apprentice by Tessa Harris, Kensington Books, ©2012. ISBN 9780758266989(Trade paperback), 310p. includes glossary.


  1. This one sounds good! I enjoy the series I enjoy the Crowther and Westerman series by Imogen Robertson about another early forensic scientist.

  2. OOps, a bit repetitive there; I got distracted by a cat.


Thanks so much for your comment. I really appreciate it. Unfortunately, I've been getting lots of spam comments, so I'm turning on word verification to help keep spammers away. I know it's a pain; I don't like it either. Hopefully, in time I'll be able to turn it off again. Thank you!