The Dead Shall Not Rest (Dr. Thomas Silkstone Series #2)by Tessa Harris
It is not just the living who are prey to London's criminals and cutpurses. Corpses, too, are fair game--dug up from fresh graves and sold to unscrupulous men of science. Dr. Thomas Silkstone abhors such methods, but his leading rival,
The brilliant anatomist Dr. Thomas Silkstone returns in Tessa Harris's vivid and compelling mystery series set in 1780s London. . .
It is not just the living who are prey to London's criminals and cutpurses. Corpses, too, are fair game--dug up from fresh graves and sold to unscrupulous men of science. Dr. Thomas Silkstone abhors such methods, but his leading rival, Dr. John Hunter, has learned of the imminent death of eight-foot-tall Charles Byrne, known as the "Irish Giant," and will go to any lengths to obtain the body for his research.
Thomas intends to see that Byrne is allowed to rest in peace. Yet his efforts are complicated by concern for his betrothed, Lady Lydia Farrell, who breaks off their engagement without explanation. When Dr. Hunter is implicated in the horrific murder of a young castrato, Thomas must determine how far the increasingly erratic surgeon will go in the name of knowledge. For as Thomas knows too well, the blackest hearts sometimes go undetected--and even an unblemished façade can hide terrifying secrets. . .
Praise for The Anatomist's Apprentice
"Densely plotted. . . We await--indeed, demand--the sequel." --The New York Times Book Review
"An absorbing debut. . . Harris has more than a few tricks up her sleeve and even veteran armchair puzzle solvers are likely to be surprised." --Publishers Weekly
"Smart misdirection and time-period appropriate medical details make for a promising start to a new series. A strong choice for readers of Ariana Franklin and Caleb Carr." --Library Journal
"CSI meets the Age of Reason with a well-drawn, intriguing cast of characters, headed by the brilliant Dr. Thomas Silkstone. Full of twists and turns, Tessa Harris's debut mystery can confound the most adept reader. Vivid details pulled me right into the world of early forensic sleuthing. A page turner!" --Karen Harper
"Intricate forensic details and a host of intriguing characters drive the story. The author will have you flipping the pages at each unexpected turn in the plot. . .an absorbing read with a shocking twist at the end." --Historical Novel Reviews
"Tessa Harris has delivered a deftly plotted debut. Just when you think the puzzle is solved, she reveals yet another surprising twist which leaves you marveling at her ingenuity." --Carol Carr, author of India Black and The Widow of Windsor
A READING GROUP GUIDE
1. What are the parallels between the powerful physicians in the novel and the multinational drug companies of today?
2. How does Thomas develop as a character in this, the second book in the series?
3. Does the course of the War of Independence affect any attitudes toward Thomas in this book?
4. Anatomists in the eighteenth century found corpses so hard to come by that they were forced to turn to grave robbers for a regular supply. Nowadays, more people donate their bodies to science. Would you?
5. Should organ donation be made compulsory?
6. Freak shows have long been considered an affront to human dignity, but in an age with little social welfare, what was the alternative for the severely disabled?
7. Charles Byrne and Count Boruwlaski both have major disabilities but are treated in very different ways. Why is this so, and how would they be treated today?
8. How far do revelations about Lydia's past go to explain her submissive character?
9. Was John Hunter a medical visionary or an evil obsessive?
10. Charles Byrne's skeleton remains on display in the Hunterian Museum in London to this day. Should he be given a proper burial?
Read an Excerpt
The Dead Shall Not RestA DR. THOMAS SILKSTONE MYSTERY
By TESSA HARRIS
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2013 Tessa Harris
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLondon, England, in the Year of Our Lord 1782
Death was not sleeping in St. Bride's churchyard that night. She was wide awake and watching, in readiness. She knew her peace was about to be disturbed. She had only claimed what was rightfully hers. Dust to dust, was it not written? But there were those who wished to rob her of her precious new treasure. Fresh flowers had been laid on one of her graves, snowdrops and primroses, and she understood the prospect of new flesh was too much of a temptation for some. So she watched and she waited.
Dr. Thomas Silkstone had been there only a few hours before. The child they had laid to rest was one of his patients. Just eight years old, Evelina had suffered corruption of the flesh. A bad fall meant that a surgeon had no choice but to amputate her leg, but infection had already crept in and invaded her whole body when her distraught parents had brought their rag of a daughter to him. In life her pretty face had been twisted with pain and her flaxen hair soaked with sweat. But now that the peace of death had descended on her, it seemed as though she was merely asleep. She looked just as his own dear sister had looked when she passed at a similar age all those years ago in his native Philadelphia.
Evelina's parents, Mary and Peter Chepp, were good, honest citizens. Evelina was their third daughter, and their second child to die before the age of ten. They had brought her to him when her blood was already poisoned. All he could do was dress the bloodied stump, clean it with oil of thyme and alum, and keep down the girl's fever. But to no avail. The passing of any of his patients always affected Thomas, even though he knew it should not. It was all part of the circle, the endless round of birth and death that physicians dealt with daily. But when it was a child called before its time, it was all the more heartrending.
As Thomas watched the couple, standing forlornly together, overseeing the gravediggers lower the little coffin into the earth, his thoughts turned to another funeral. He recalled Lady Lydia Farrell at her mother's interment. It had been a long and lonely winter without his beloved, with only her letters for comfort. Now that the weather was turning and spring was on its way, the coaches from London to Oxford would soon be running their daily service and he would return to Boughton to see her. He was just waiting for her word and he would be with her. Both of them agreed that it was best, out of respect for the dead and for the sake of their reputations, to keep their plans secret for the time being. If they were to announce their betrothal so soon after her late husband's death, vicious tongues would wag once again. Thomas did not want Lydia to suffer more than she already had.
"We have paid both the undertaker and the sexton well," Mr. and Mrs. Chepp told Thomas as the gravediggers smoothed over shovelfuls of soil, patting them into a mound. The doctor smiled and nodded reassuringly. He hoped that their monetary incentives were enough to keep the grave robbers at bay. All the same, he feared for their daughter's safety even more than his own that night.
Now that winter had loosened its icy grip on the earth, the sack 'em up men could work with impunity. No corpse was safe. The dissecting rooms of London needed cadavers, and the anatomists did not care how they came by them or who they were. Feeding this insatiable appetite for the dead was a lucrative business for those with low enough morals and strong stomachs—and there were plenty of those—as Thomas knew only too well. He had been approached many times by such scoundrels, but had always sent them away. Once you did business with them, it was hard to break free. He had even heard of a surgeon who refused to play by their rules and woke to a rotting corpse on his doorstep the next day.
"Our Evelina will be safe," repeated Mr. and Mrs. Chepp to Thomas as they left the graveside. "No one will steal our child."
Now it was a late hour. The spring-guns were set around the churchyard wall, or so the sexton said. The night was moonless. A dog barked and the men appeared. There were four of them and they knuckled down to work as if they were smithies in a forge or infantrymen loading their rifles. Each knew his task and performed it efficiently. Two dug a hole down to the coffin where the head lay while the other two stretched out a canvas sheet to receive the displaced earth. They dug with short, flat, dagger-shaped pieces of wood so that the sound of iron striking stone did not alert anyone.
Within half an hour they had reached the small coffin. The lid came off effortlessly—the undertaker had seen to that—and they pulled out the girl's body with ease. And there she was, pure and delicate, dressed in a flowing white shroud and with a garland of fresh flowers wreathed around her pretty head. Still they stripped her. Their own lives were worth more than a few grave-clothes and faded petals. They would not swing for stealing a shroud. So they bundled her, naked, into a sack. Carefully they reburied her grave-clothes and lowered the coffin back down, taking great care to smooth the surface all around. No one must know that the earth had already given up one of its newest and sweetest secrets.
The sexton, who had been watching proceedings, keeping lookout by the spring-guns which he had previously disarmed, nodded at the men. He saw them slip the sack over the wall and he knew his work was done.
All that remained was to take the booty—there were two other corpses on the cart—to Castle Street in Leicester Fields. The moon that had been so obligingly absent earlier now reappeared from behind a blanket of cloud, so that the road was easier to trace.
The cart pulled up in front of a large town house and one of the men alighted by a wooden gate. He tapped on it and a few moments later there came the sound of locks being unbolted before it creaked open. A swarthy guard appeared, lantern in hand, and nodded to the men, who were clearly expected. He returned inside and a few seconds later a drawbridge was lowered into the street and the cart was driven through. Once it was inside, the guard climbed on board. Bending down, he took a tape from around his neck and measured the length of each sack from top to bottom before opening all three of them, one after the other. Seemingly satisfied with their contents, he counted out a number of coins and handed them to the man, who signaled to the others to begin lugging the cargo off the cart and through the gate.
A few minutes later, their transaction complete, the men drove off. The guard looked up and down the street once more, making sure that no one had been privy to these unconventional business dealings, then cranked up the drawbridge once more.
Chapter TwoThe annual spring fair at Boughton, in the county of Oxfordshire, was in full swing and it did not take long for the crowd to swallow the little man. At first they must have taken him for a child. Measuring barely three feet tall, he was the height of a six-year-old, but this was no grubby urchin out on a thieving mission. Abandoning his usual dapper French-cut redingote, Count Josef Boruwlaski sported a drab dung-colored frockcoat to blend in with the unwashed horde and headed, virtually unremarked, into the bowels of the throng.
Each April, beginning on the first Thursday of the month, the fair was held on the estate, near the village of Brandwick, and had been for the last three hundred years. The world and his wife rubbed shoulders with each other as all manner of entertainments, contests, and sports were laid on for the general delectation of the public. There were soothsayers, who would give you good fortune if you crossed their palms with silver and curse you if you did not, and mountebanks who sold miracle cures for a variety of agues and malignant effluvia that, most often, did more harm than good. There were prizefighters and wire walkers, fire-eaters and ropedancers, jugglers and acrobats. There were pigs that could fire a cannon and horses as small as dogs. There was a man who could lick his nose with his tongue like a cow and a hermaphrodite with both breasts and male genitalia clearly visible under its breeches. But as blasé to such spectacles as the good people of Brandwick had become over the years, even they were intrigued by what was billed to appear on a raised dais at the far edge of the fairground.
As the drum rolled in the shadowy twilight, the gypsy violins and tabors fell silent, the dancing troupe was stilled, and the costermongers and quacks stopped hawking. The servant girls in their Sunday best hushed their swains, and even the painted women shut their scarlet lips as the showman's voice rose hard and loud above the throng. All were drawn toward a makeshift stage that was flanked by two flaming torches.
"Come and see the tallest man in the world," he cried, dressed in yellow pantaloons and wearing a curly-brimmed green hat. His face was set in a wide, almost demonic grin. "He is not six foot, not seven foot, but eight foot high," he called into the chill air.
All eyes now focused on the stage. They did not notice the little man edging his way toward the front. Weaving past starched skirts and coarse smocks, he huffed and puffed. Buttons and brocade scratched his cheeks and boots bludgeoned his toes, but he remained steadfast in his purpose.
Now and again he would jab his elbow into a man's buttock or tug at a lady's skirt so that he could pass. One woman screamed when she looked down, believing him to be a cutpurse, but he managed to duck under a bridge of thighs and scurried off too quickly to be caught.
A few seconds later he reached the edge of the stage, out of breath and with his graying hair quite disheveled, but, he told himself, the excellent view was well worth the discomfort.
The drum roll grew louder and the excited murmurings from the crowd receded to a hush.
"And now, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you have all been waiting for," called the showman, his eyes wild with excitement. "I give you, all the way from the Emerald Isle, the truly amazing Irish Giant." He flung his arm toward the tall drapes that hung behind him from taut ropes at the back of the stage as the drum thundered. Nothing happened.
Some apprentice boys had clambered up on hay bales stacked by the stage for a better view and, emboldened by strong liquor, began to heckle.
"Where is he, then?" one called.
"Buggered off back to Ireland," shouted another.
The showman smiled nervously and repeated himself, only this time even louder, making another sweeping gesture with his arm. "The truly amazing Giant Byrne."
Still nothing, and a rotten cabbage landed on the stage. "Get on with it," called a gruff voice, and the crowd started to murmur. The showman began to move backward, his face still set in a wide grin, when suddenly the drapes were drawn apart and a figure appeared in the amber glow of the torchlight.
A collective gasp of amazement rose as all eight feet of Charles Byrne, the Amazing Irish Giant, lumbered forward, causing the flimsy stage to creak and groan under his weight. He was, indeed, like a storybook ogre, with flowing black hair and arms as fat as ham hocks. Around his massive shoulders was draped a cloak, which dropped to the floor to reveal his naked torso and tight breeches. But his expression was vacant rather than vicious, and he looked more bewildered than belligerent.
Nevertheless, the showman's expression changed instantly from one of nervous anticipation to exalted relief. "Such a giant as never was before seen on these shores," he shouted out, barely able to contain himself, as the audience cheered and whooped.
When the cries had settled down to a murmur, the showman leaned forward. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said. "Let me take you back through the mists of time. A time when this man's ancestors roamed the land. The dark days." He motioned to the giant, who began to stride purposefully from one side of the stage to the other as directed. To gasps of alarm, he then stopped to look out over the audience, shielding his eyes from the torchlight in an exaggerated pantomime gesture.
The showman continued his patter as the giant hunched his shoulders menacingly and obligingly mimed gestures to match the speech. "These evil ogres strode over the hills and dales, terrorizing our towns and villages. They slew the menfolk. They carried off our women and used them for their own gratification. They even ate our babes."
There were more squeals from the female members of the audience. "Ladies and gentlemen, this giant, this Goliath that stands before you here today, is their descendant," cried the showman, delighting at the ensuing alarums of amazement. "Yet be not afraid, for this colossus is made of altogether gentler stuff." The showman looked at the giant, who was still grimacing. "Gentler stuff," he repeated, and the giant duly forced a smile. "Yet he still has the strength of a hundred men, as you will now see with your own eyes."
The showman danced over to a large object on the center of the stage that was covered with a crimson cloth. Bending low, he removed it with a flourish to reveal a ship's anchor.
"This anchor, ladies and gentlemen, comes from the thirty-ton lugger, the Phoenix, that was shipwrecked off the shores of Cornwall last year. It weighs half a ton, and Giant Byrne will now lift it and raise it above his head in a show of his extreme power."
There was another sharp intake of breath from the crowd as the drum rolled and the giant, his enormous chest muscles gleaming in the torchlight, proceeded to put a leather halter around his neck. The halter was attached to a short, thick chain at the end of which was the anchor. Crouching down, with his head low, but never taking his eyes from the audience, the giant took a deep breath and began to rise slowly. As he straightened his torso, the chains began to move, too, like metal snakes uncoiling. And finally, as his legs began to straighten, so did the anchor begin to shift. It came slowly at first. Beads of sweat started to appear on the giant's brow and some began to doubt, but then the movement hastened as he steadily lifted his arms above his head. Straining every fiber in his being, he straightened his back until, at last, the anchor left the ground and was clearly suspended from the halter around his neck.
The crowd erupted into loud applause. "Bravo, bravo," they called. The showman grinned and gestured to the giant to take a bow. Looking bewildered by all the noise, he simply nodded and let the anchor drop slowly down onto the stage. Ignoring the crowd's adulation, he then turned toward the drapes and would have disappeared again from view had the showman not lunged after him. He took him by the arm and pulled him back to face his admiring audience once more.
"Bow again, you dolt," he said through clenched teeth, his face still holding a grin. "Bow."
The giant did bow, from the waist this time. But there was no satisfied smile, only a pained look. As a crookbacked youth passed around a hat to collect a few paltry coins, the showman led him off the stage through the drapes and down wooden steps to a tent that was pitched nearby.
The crowd now dispersed as quickly as it had formed, tempted by the many other delights of the fair, leaving the little man at the front of the stage. For the past ten minutes he had been pinioned to the wooden fascia board, having to force his head back to watch the show that played out above him. His neck was now exceedingly stiff, but he was glad that he had witnessed the spectacle firsthand.
Lady Lydia Farrell was also glad to have seen the show. Her carriage was parked on a ridge above the natural amphitheater of the fairground. She remembered visiting the fair as a small child and still loved the sights and sounds of it, albeit from a distance these days. Her father had always been happy to allow the didicoys and dancing troupes to park their wagons on the edge of the Boughton estate for the duration of the fair, and she was glad to continue the tradition.
On this particular occasion she observed proceedings through a pair of opera glasses from the comfort of her carriage. Her view had not been completely satisfactory, but it had sufficed for her purposes. It would not have been seemly for her to mix among the vulgar people, especially as she had been widowed only a few months before. Nor did she wish to be seen in her carriage, so she wore a hooded cape that she pulled down low, covering the top half of her face.
As the crowd dwindled she watched her envoy approach.
"So, Count," said Lydia as the little man was helped into her carriage. "What do you think?"
"I think there is much to discuss, your ladyship," he replied. Lydia nodded. They would talk about what they had just seen over dinner at Boughton Hall and then decide whether or not to proceed with their course of action the following day.
Excerpted from The Dead Shall Not Rest by TESSA HARRIS Copyright © 2013 by Tessa Harris. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Tessa Harris, an English author born in Lincolnshire, holds a history degree from Oxford University. After four years of working with local newspapers, she set her sights on women s magazines. She is regularly heard on local BBC radio and over the years has interviewed such people as Margaret Thatcher, Jeffrey Archer, Anthony Hopkins, Susan Hampshire, Alan Titchmarsh, Jackie Stewart, Boris Johnson, and Uri Geller. She lives in Berkshire with her husband and their two children.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is an absolutely brilliant book. It's definitely the best historical fiction that I've ever read, and I've read a lot of it.
Enjoyed reading this and other's in series. I would recommend reading in order but its not necessary but does jog your memory when previous chacters are metioned. The stories are pretty detailed and not for the faint of heart. Like sherlock holmes of the medical profession.
Yay! Dr. Silkstone is back! *Book source ~ Many thanks to Kensington for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review. It is 1782 and Charles Byrne is said to be the tallest man in the world. Hating the way he is treated, Lady Lydia Farrell rescues him from the traveling fair when it is lodged on the far edge of her property. The Irish Giant only wants to see the King to get a pardon for his dad who was wrongly charged, convicted and hung for a murder he did not commit. From this single minded quest various threads are weaved together to form the whole tapestry of The Dead Shall Not Rest. There is a lot going on in this second book involving Dr. Thomas Silkstone, an anatomist from the Colonies now living in London. The story is told from multiple POVs that, at first, are a bit hard to keep straight. However, it isn’t long before a picture begins to take shape and everything starts to pull together. There is a murder with an unlikely suspect, Lady Lydia’s strange behavior and the whole story around Charles, his illness and the unscrupulous anatomists who would love to dissect his remains against his wishes. Silkstone is hard pressed to keep up with all three of them as he dashes from one crisis to the next trying to help everyone. The 18th century forensics is fascinating and the history behind anatomists, coroners and the justice system (such as it was) is a type of history I can get behind. I did think there was a bit too much going on in this book, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the ride.