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The Anatomy of Ghosts

The Anatomy of Ghosts

3.5 17
by Andrew Taylor
     
 

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1786, Jerusalem College, Cambridge. The ghost of murdered Sylvia Whichcote has been sighted prowling the grounds by Frank Oldershaw, a disturbed fellow commoner. When his anxious mother employs John Holdsworth, author of The Anatomy of Ghosts - a stinging account of why ghosts are mere delusion - to investigate the sighting, the uneasy status quo at Jerusalem is

Overview

1786, Jerusalem College, Cambridge. The ghost of murdered Sylvia Whichcote has been sighted prowling the grounds by Frank Oldershaw, a disturbed fellow commoner. When his anxious mother employs John Holdsworth, author of The Anatomy of Ghosts - a stinging account of why ghosts are mere delusion - to investigate the sighting, the uneasy status quo at Jerusalem is rapidly torn apart. Holdsworth grows to realise that the sinister Holy Ghost Club governs the privileged life at Jerusalem with a rigour far more effective than anything the Master, Dr Carbury, could muster. And when Holdsworth finds himself haunted - not only by the ghost of his dead wife, Maria, but also Elinor, the very-much-alive Master's wife - his fate is sealed. He must unravel the circumstances surrounding Sylvia's death ... or the hauntings will continue.

Editorial Reviews

Wendy Smith
Andrew Taylor's brooding thriller…[is a] dark and gripping tale.
—The Washington Post
Marilyn Stasio
…pitches us into dynamic but rowdy 18th-century England, when superstition still held a grip on rational minds despite the advent of the Enlightenment.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Set in England in 1786, this masterful thriller from British author Taylor (Bleeding Heart Square) opens on a tragic note. In the months since London bookseller John Holdsworth's little son, Georgie, slipped into the Thames and hit his head against a coal barge with fatal results, Holdsworth's grief-stricken wife, Maria, has repeatedly visited the site of the boy's death. Until her own untimely death, Maria spends most of her days with a woman who relays messages from Georgie from the beyond. At loose ends, Holdsworth, who's written a treatise debunking ghost sightings, accepts an assignment from Lady Anne Oldershaw in Cambridge to prove to her son, a Jerusalem College student who claims to have seen a ghost, that he's suffering from a delusion. Fans of Michael Cox and Charles Palliser will relish this sophisticated period puzzle, which takes an intriguing look at the age-old question of the reality of ghosts. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Award-winning British crime fiction author Taylor (The American Boy; The Stain on the Silence) sets his latest novel in 18th-century Cambridge, England, where the elite collegiate aristocracy is investigating a sighting of a local woman's ghost. John Holdsworth, bookseller and author of a book discounting the existence of spirits (appropriately itself titled The Anatomy of Ghosts) is asked to inspect two mysterious drownings at the college. As Holdsworth probes the institution for answers, he is met with disdain by the close-knit academic society. More a haunting exploration into the underside of an intellectual hierarchy than a ghost tale, Taylor's latest delivers an original historical mystery that uses the language and attitude of the period in a fresh way.Verdict While the supernatural element is used more as a mechanism to weave the mystery rather than being the focus of the story, the result remains a successful piece of compelling suspense literature and sophisticated historical crime fiction.—Carolann Curry, Mercer Univ. Medical Lib., Macon, GA
Kirkus Reviews

University life circa 1786.

After his son's accidental drowning and his wife's despairing suicide, London bookseller John Holdsworth is threatened by insolvency. But a commission from Lady Anne Oldershaw to catalog her late husband's library, bequeathed to Cambridge's Jerusalem College, may signal an upturn in his fortunes. Lady Anne adds one stipulation, however. Holdsworth must locate her son Frank and return him home. Holdsworth is duly dispatched to Cambridge, where he's billeted with Lady Anne's goddaughter Elinor and her ailing husband, Dr. Carbury. Holdsworth locates Frank, who's been under the care of a specialist in mental disorders since his induction into Jerusalem College's Holy Ghost Club and subsequent tormenting by the ghost of beautiful, abused Mrs. Whichcote, whose husband Philip heads up the Ghost Club's debaucheries. More scandal threatens Jerusalem: Even as Dr. Carbury is in his death throes, a frisson of lust attacks Elinor every time she thinks of Holdsworth; a promising scholar is accused of thievery; a lackluster student purchases a thesis proposal; and another woman's death can be laid at the Ghost Club's doorstep. Moreover, Holdsworth finds the library collection mostly inconsequential, and his fondness for Elinor seems disloyal to his wife's memory. Before academe settles down again to intellectual pursuits, blackmail, nocturnal trysts and a re-evaluation of a ghost sighting will surface.

Eighteenth-century Cambridge life exquisitely detailed by Taylor, recipient of the Crime Writers Association Cartier Diamond Dagger award (2009).

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780141018621
Publisher:
Penguin UK
Publication date:
03/29/2011
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.30(d)

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Meet the Author

Andrew Taylor is the author of a number of critically acclaimed crime novels, including the Roth Trilogy (ITV's Fallen Angel) and The American Boy, his bestselling historical novel which was a Richard and Judy Book Club selection. He has won many awards, including two CWA Ellis Peters Historical Daggers and most recently the CWA Diamond Dagger. He lives in the Forest of Dean.

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