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Book 17: The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor

Book 17: The Anatomy of Ghosts.
Author: Andrew Taylor, 2010.
Genre: Historical Mystery. 18th Century England.
Other Details: Paperback. 471 pages.

They say Jerusalem College, Cambridge, is haunted by Mrs Whichcote's ghost. In 1786, Frank Oldershaw claims he saw her in the garden, where she drowned. Now he's under the care of a physician. Desperate to salvage her son's reputation and restore him to health, Lady Anne Oldershaw employs her own agent - John Holdsworth, author of 'The Anatomy of Ghosts', a controversial attack on the existence of ghostly phenomena. But his arrival in Cambridge disrupts the uneasy status quo. He glimpses a world of privilege and abuse, where the sinister Holy Ghost Club governs life at Jerusalem more effectively than the Master, Dr Carbury, ever could. - synopsis from author's website.

Following the death of his son and wife Holdsworth is himself a deeply troubled man, down on his luck and somewhat haunted by his own ghosts despite the rational stance that he has taken in his book. However, this being the Age of Enlightenment he is determined to put these phantoms to rest along with solving the mystery of Mrs. Whichcote's death and the reported haunting.

Given the title of the novel I had expected something a little more ghostly than this proved though it still was a very interesting historical mystery. I found it a fairly slowly paced novel which certainly suited its period setting with a great deal of emphasis upon class differences and stylised manners.

I had not heard of Andrew Taylor before this came up as a selection for our library reading group. Still, one of the many positive things about being a member of such a group is being introduced to writers whose work you've not encountered before. The Anatomy of Ghosts was well received by all members of the group and applauded for its plot, characters and how well the late 18th Century setting was executed. Interestingly only myself and two other members, who are also fans of horror and supernatural fiction, expressed that we'd been hoping for more ghostly goings on in the novel whereas the others seemed either pleased or not bothered by their absence. We all agreed there that the ending allowed plenty of scope for a sequel.
Tags: historical fiction, murder mystery
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