Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 2014. Goose Lane Editions. (Includes Historical information in “Acknowledgements.”) Published by Steerforth on February 3, 2015.
Will Starling, who served as a surgeon’s assistant during wartime for 5 years, and his employer have returned to London in 1816 shortly after the Napoleonic Wars. It is a time when London’s inhabitants are striving to rise above the misfortune of war while surgeons seek to uncover the mysteries of life and death. Their ever-growing need to learn about human anatomy has given rise to a black market of grave robberies, for dissection purposes, subjecting them to distrust and fear by the general public.
This new world of experimental scientific knowledge is led by Dionysus Atherton, a surgeon convinced he can bring the dead back to life through unorthodox methods. His increasing thirst for knowledge, and the rumors which surrounded his practice, have raised Will’s suspicions. Will has his own reasons to dislike Dionysus, certain he harbors terrible secrets, and will stop at nothing to get the evidence he needs to put a stop to Dionysus’ way of practicing medicine. However, the more he digs into Dionysus’ life, the worst things become for Will until the secrets he uncovers forever changes his own life.
I enjoyed getting historical background about the great experiments with life and death attempted by surgeons of the day, as well as learning about the London of 1816, and could easily see how these unusual experiments seemed to have given Mary Shelley the inspiration she needed to write “Frankenstein.” What I did not enjoy was the increasingly confusing manner in which the story was told, going from the present to the past or even to the future, and then doubling back to the present. There were all manner of asides thrown into Will’s rambling narrative, which made me flip back and forth to figure out what had happened so I could put it in its context.
Despite these flaws, “Will Starling” will enlighten many on the subject of surgeons of the 19th century, as well as the life and times of 1816 London.
Recommended for Adult readers.