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Resurrectionist by James McGee

Resurrectionist (original 2007; edition 2007)

by James McGee

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175867,867 (3.65)12
Authors:James McGee
Info:Harper (2007), Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:fiction, tbr

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Resurrectionist by James McGee (2007)


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From the historical notes in the book: "By any definition, body snatching is and was a foul trade, and yet there is no doubt that during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, prior to the Anatomy Act of 1832, which allowed corpses other than those of condemned murderers to be used in anatomy studies, it played a crucial role in the advancement of medical knowledge. There were very few surgeons who did not rely on the resurrection men to provide fresh cadavers for their research."The book deserves praise for the research and how it is incorporated into the story alone. The way medical practice and the life of the nineteenth century lower classes is described is more than disturbing, and heartbreaking at times. At one point in the story Hawkwood had to visit Bethlem Hospital. After those pages you will want to take a break. Or a really hot shower. And it won't be the first time.
A surgeon's lecture he watched was upsetting enough even for a man like Hawkwood. I can imagine how men will feel when they get to this scene. "The patient’s nightshirt was lifted and rolled back over his chest. Beneath the gown, the man was naked. His skin was as pale as paper. On Carslow’s instructions, a strap was secured around each of the patient’s ankles. On a further nod from the surgeon, the patient’s knees were drawn up and back towards his chest, and his legs were pulled apart until his genitalia and buttocks were fully exposed."What happened in the next scene is horrible. My rational part understands why those surgeons are celebrated as pioneers in science, but since I am not a doctor, I don't feel very generous to accept it. If you have any human compassion in you, you will be furious.

This is an unforgiving world. The way prostitutes are treated made me want to scream. But they are never treated badly by Hawkwood or Jago. They are greater men than that even if one is on the other side of the law. "There wasn’t a town in the land that wasn’t home to an ever-increasing number of war widows left to fend for themselves while the bodies of their menfolk lay bleaching under some foreign sun. For those with a child or children to support it was even worse, particularly for the widows of rank-and-file soldiers. Scores of women had been forced to take to the streets in search of crumbs and coin."Someone always dies. Not everyone can be saved by some last minute intervention, but even with all this darkness Hawkwood somehow manages to shine as a bright light (though glare would be more suitable for him), an anti-hero who fights even when everything around him is drowning in despair. The beautiful thing is he doesn't have to fight alone. Jago is never far, and some like the scarred Major Lomax with his dark sense of humour, will never refuse to help.

The prologue takes place in Bedlam. You can't get worse than that place. There was a murder and Hawkwood was called to investigate. We don't get to see how Hawkwood got the body snatching case. When the book starts he is already on it and the first victim connected to the body snatchers is a murdered victim crucified in the churchyard.

The rage Hawkwood feels at the injustices of their society is palpable. We don't get a satisfying resolution as we did in the first book, but the last Hawkwood's comment was enough to bring a huge smile to my face.
This book is beautifully written. If you love historical fiction that is often disturbing and unapologetic, then this book is a great addition to your shelves. ( )
  Aneris | Apr 22, 2017 |
I haven't read any of the books in this series but felt reading this book which is number two it really didn't make much difference. Matthew Hawkwood is a Bow Street runner, ex army, very dashing, a Victorian Jack Reacher maybe.

In this outing hes out to solve murders that are somehow connected to the grave robbers. The book is very gory at times and I did squirm. Loved the descriptions and did feel like I was there in Bedlam myself.

I couldn't make my mind up if I was enjoying this book or not. I felt it was a slog at times and there wasn't a lot going on. When I feel like this I tend to see what other reviewers thought, and to see if its worth me continuing. I did read one lovely review with a mild spoiler, with warning and it did sort of tell me the why and why nots. I have to say from this point I have skipped to finish the book.

I'm not sure if I would seek out anymore books in this series. Loved the setting and time of place, liked the story line and Hawkwood himself, just got bored with the book. ( )
  tina1969 | May 25, 2016 |
Let's face it, if you read a book about bodysnatching, you have to expect a lot of 'yuck' factor. But I never felt that the gruesome details were being told just to be gruesome. This is just the way it was. I enjoyed this. Not everything that happened, but the way it was told. ( )
  MarthaJeanne | Jan 24, 2016 |
I expected to enjoy this book far more than I did but that was because I had the wrong writer. This is the first McGee I have read and from an historical point of view it was very interesting indeed, with descriptions of Bedlam, the London slums and sewers and the state of medicine in the early Nineteenth Century.

Hawkwood, an ex army man, is a formidable character and called to investigate a murder in the notorious London Asylum: from there he is summoned to a church yard where a corpse is gruesomely displayed. Nothing seems to link the two at first but of course, fiction being less random than real life, its all part of the same plot, planned by an evil genius and executed by his no less evil henchmen, and women.

Body snatching, amazingly, was not a crime initially, as long as the corpse was stripped of all clothes - even the shroud - or jewellery, since taking those was 'theft'. Bodies were usually taken for medical schools, and good teeth were prized by dentists for dentures. But there's a new buyer in London who is not satisfied with even the most freshly disinterred corpse: for his purposes, he needs them alive.

Matthew Hawkwood soon realises his adversary is a [supposedly] dead man, and one who has some very powerful allies at that. In the end - SPOILER ALERT - the mad scheme to revive his long dead daughter using the fresh blood and organs of other girls is foiled and, despite making some enemies, Hawkwood emerges victorious.

Not an easy or enjoyable read but a very interesting one. ( )
  adpaton | Oct 16, 2014 |
Potential to be good tale, but totally spoiled by over the top violence, horror and blatant sexual abuse. Sensationalism for its own sake adds nothing to the story. I am too old to be shocked, but really do not need this. ( )
  richardgarside | Nov 21, 2011 |
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Als der Wärter Mordecai Leech das unheimliche Heulen hörte, war sein erster Gedanke, dass es der Wind sein müsse, der durchs Dachgebälk pfiff.
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For the body snatchers, death is a lucrative business. But it's the corpse they leave behind, horribly mutilated and nailed to a tree, which sets Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood on their trail.

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