Monday, March 23, 2015

Will Starling by Ian Weir

Will Starling: A Novel by Ian Weir --- 473 pages.

Will Starling, "Your Wery 'Umble" narrator, is an orphan much like the Artful Dodger in Dicken's Oliver Twist, adrift in a chancy, dangerous world and forced to live by his not inconsiderable wits.

It is 1816, and the long Napoleonic wars are over. Will arrives back in London, having spent the last five years with the Army, working as an assistant to military surgeon Alex Comrie. Now he is helping Comrie in his efforts to set up a private practice in Cripplegate, one of London's less savory neighborhoods.

Since the war, surgeons, once despised as little more than butchers, are eager to establish themselves as respected medical professionals. There is a College of Surgeons, as well as private anatomy schools, where students may attend lectures, observe surgical procedures, and practice technique by conducting dissections. The law grants the College of Surgeons the right to claim the corpses of four executed murderers per year for scientific study, but the demand is much greater than that. As a result, grave robbers or “resurrectionists” fill the gap in the supply of  fresh cadavers.

Dionysus Atherton, an ambitious young surgeon, doesn't just rely on the Resurrection Men. He makes his own arrangements to obtain cadavers that meet his exacting specifications. He insists that he is acting for the advancement of knowledge and the relief of suffering, but Mr. Comrie considers he is much more interested in the advancement of Dionysus Atherton. But Will suspects that Atherton is engaged in something even worse --- experiments on the living and attempts to bring back the dead.

A darkly comic and dreadfully fascinating tale by this award-winning Canadian playwright, screenwriter and novelist. Weir is also the author of Daniel O'Thunder, named one of the best historical novels of 2011.

Click HERE to visit the author's web site.

Click HERE for a review of Will Starling in the Canadian National Post.

Click HERE for a review in the Vancouver Sun.

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