Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Anatomy of Ghosts-Andrew Taylor

The Anatomy of Ghosts

Andrew Taylor

Hyperion, Jan 17 2012, $15.99

ISBN: 9781401310738

In 1786, Tim Turdman finds the body of young Georgie Holdsworth, who drowned in the Thames. His father John the bookseller is despondent but conceals his grief from his wife Maria whose depression frightens her spouse but is understandable as she helplessly watched her son drown in the river. She insists she speaks to her deceased offspring with the help of a medium. A fire destroys the bookstore that contains John’s investment leaving him broke. Angry and grieving John authors a book to prove to Maria that she cannot communicate with Georgie and her channel is a con artist. His effort leads to Maria committing suicide by jumping into the Thames near where she last saw her child.

Lady Anne Oldershaw hires a depressed John to catalog her late husband's library that she is bequeathing to Cambridge University. Her son Frank, a Jerusalem College student, has a nervous breakdown following his assertion that he saw the ghost of murdered Sylvia Whichcote. Lady Anne asks John, as a paranormal fraud expert, to help her son realize how inane his assertion is. John knows first he must learn what the lad saw as he struggles through the nasty Holy Ghost Club and their Master Dr. Carbury only to find his haunting mission changed.

This is a great late Georgian thriller that will keep the audience wondering whether to believe in ghosts or something more sinisterly human. The storyline starts melancholy in the opening chapters, but changes tone when the bookseller comes to Cambridge as he gets involved with a murder mystery that has him reconsidering his contention that ghosts are delusions of the parasitic relationship between the desperate and the amoral who take advantage of these depressed souls.

Harriet Klausner

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