I’m always looking for a good book series. I enjoy watching characters develop. I guess that’s why I still enjoy comic books. I keep my ears open for new series to try. Generally, speaking the first book of a series that’s intended to be a series is one of the weaker books because it sets up the world, the characters, plot lines to carry for many books, and an episodic plot. That’s a lot to get done in about 300 pages. So if a series can grab me in the first one I figure it’s a keeper.
The Anatomist’s Apprentice by Tessa Harris is the first book of the Dr. Thomas Silkstone mysteries. It’s set in England during King George III’s reign, during our Revolution here in the states. Anatomy was a newish science and our hero Dr. Silkstone is burgeoning into forensic science. He’s treading new territory about the time Vidocq, the father of modern forensic thought, was being born. He attempts to determine not just the cause of death but the method of murder or should I say murders. The initial one leads to a few more all needing to be solved.
There are enough twists, red herrings, and dead ends to keep the reader guessing. The story has a great pace to build interest without being rushed or lagging. I have to say I enjoyed it very much and will be reading the second book The Dead Shall Not Rest.
Even though I enjoyed the book there were a few issues with the book that threw me out of the story as a reader. The first was remembering it was set in the Georgian era not the Victorian era. For me take away a few references to tricron hats, powdered wigs, Colonies in revolt, and men in stockings and the setting was perfectly Victorian. Actually it seemed more so than Georgian, from medical school operations, to newspapers frequency, to conversational phrasing, to servants mannerisms and so on. The feel was off so I gave up ignored the few dropped hints that it was the 1700s and imagined it in the 1800s.
The second issue was head hopping. You see in a scene you can only be in one person’s head. If you keep hopping about from inner thoughts to inner thoughts it gets confusing. The few times in one scene where we jump from his head to her head and back I was totally out of the scene and confused. Inside one head per scene please!
The third was events seemed to be known before they were known. I can’t think of specific examples but I do remember at least twice thinking “Hmm, we know that? How did I miss that?” Then shortly after that we do come to know it. As I writer I recognize this as forgetting to clean up moving a scene. It happens and a good editor will kick it back to you to fix.
Finally the fourth and to me the biggest one – don’t play your hero of the series to be stupid. There’s a scene where he explains how a unique poison works. Then right after that the very person who gave him the sample – has the systems of the poison but dammit he doesn’t notice. It takes too long for him to put it together when as a reader I was shouting it at him. YOU JUST DESCRIBED THIS HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE IT?!?
Honestly I put the others on the editor’s shoulders. A great editor takes a story and helps the writer make it the best it can be. Unless there’s a reason to have it in the 1700s a few snips and it’s fitting the feel. Head hopping is something editors are always harping upon and looking for changes in the point of view (POV). Writers tend to do it when creating because we are trying to account for everyone and their motivations so their movements hold true. Decent editors get it out very quickly. I’ve already addressed the rewrite remnants of what is known when. So I think it’s a good strong story with weak editing.
Those are mostly small things, some are just writer hang-ups. Still if it’s stuff that will bug you be warned it’s there but the story is strong enough to get through it. If you don’t notice these things or they don’t bother you, then you’re in for a fun read.
Until next time!