In 1816 London, Napoleon has been defeated and troops have returned, including teenaged Will Starling, who survived the wars as assistant to the decent surgeon Alec Comrie. Will now serves Comrie in the city, still in strained circumstances.

Medical science has turned to the utility of anatomy, but material for research and teaching is scarce. Body-snatchers procure subjects from robbing graves—sometimes from murder—but they are not the only bad actors. Flamboyant, privileged Doctor Dionysius Atherton is trying to raise the dead by applying newly harnessed electricity to fresh cadavers.

From this ghoulish world of science and crime, young Will Starling tells his own tale, as your “Wery Umble Narrator.” Vivid scenes of wretched urban poverty, wanton cruelty, and selfless heroism march past to a grim ending.  


A cross between Dickens and Poe, this remarkable novel vividly recreates the atmosphere of early nineteenth century London as it plays with the anatomical obsession of the medicine at that time. Young Starling’s voice is most convincing.

Real people and places from the period are mentioned, such as Guy’s Hospital, John Hunter and Astley Cooper. Figuring large are the shocking social conditions for children and women who have neither money nor male protectors.


This favorable review provides more plot details, emphasizing the surprising twists and recognizing the prose itself as a “splendid literary achievement.”


Goose Land

Place Published

Fredericton, New Brunswick



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