London, 1782. The sole survivor of an ill-fated expedition to Jamaica has gone missing upon his return home. Dr. Thomas Silkstone had been entrusted to catalog all the New World specimens and therefore feels compelled to investigate the disappearance. Meanwhile, a rumor circulates that a potion with the power to raise the dead is afoot, and the formula is thought to be in the missing botanist's journal. As he investigates, the good doctor is drawn into a world of trafficking in corpses for profit. When a headless corpse is discovered, Silkstone uncovers the sinister motives of those who would stop at nothing to possess the Lazarus potion. Inspired by true-life physician Dr. William Shippen Jr., this delightful series has been hailed as "CSI meets The Age of Reason" (Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author).
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It is such a great honor for me to be the first Audible.com member to review this book. It was with much trepidation combined with excitement, earlier this year, I read the print version of this book about slavery in Britain. The fourth in the author's Dr. Thomas Silkstone series was released in July, but I was lucky enough to get an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) directly from the publisher. And now I get a second swipe at the brass ring with the audio version! WOW!!!
As a black American, I was curious to learn more about a barely documented part of British history. About 8 pages in, I was so taken aback by a certain scene that I was "thisclose" to abandoning this effort. But, just like passing a bad wreck on the highway, you don't want to look at the carnage, yet you just can't turn away! I'm so glad that I stuck it out.
Much of the subject matter - black magic, voodoo, obeah, etc. - was not new to me, especially as it pertains to enslaved Africans. But I knew nothing about the horrible conditions that existed among enslaved and free blacks in England during this era. However, author Tessa expertly presents a sensitive and uncomfortable issue without interjecting "political correctness" - a habit among white authors that I find to be unnecessary when recounting actual historical facts to a present day audience. Who are alleged "PC" writers trying to protect? As black people, we still feel the pain of oppression whether it is "n-word" or "nigger" being bandied about! "A rose by any other name......" etc.
Tessa Harris does a magnificent job here. As usual in her Silkstone series, the reader is educated on a little known part of history that had a major impact on a small segment of the English population. Yes, there were some parts that were very difficult for me as a black person - they will be just as uncomfortable for ANY human being who claims to be compassionate, fair, and non-racist. But, this novel is well-researched, while being both shocking and plausible. Dr. Silkstone continues to be a respected and likable person with the returning characters still well-developed. The villains are despicable and the heroes sympathetic. Even the black characters are finely drawn with none of the disturbing stereotypes which often pollute such stories.
That said, all of the above goes right out the door in the cliff-hanger ending! I swear I didn't see it coming! I was left with my jaw in my lap, mad because now I have to wait another year for the next installment! I was so distraught that it took a double Black Jack with beer back to steady my nerves - and I don't even drink! Pretty much like MC Hammer totally changed the landscape of rap music with his 1990 eye-popping, nerve-jarring "Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em" tour , Tessa Harris really "hurt" me with this book! But it is a "hurt" that's so good, I can't wait for more!
I was so impressed by this work that I purchased from Audible.com, where I usually buy books. That is not the norm for me - once around the park is usually enough. However, how could I pass up the second "go-round" when one of my Top 3 narrators, SIMON VANCE, is onboard here as he was on "The Anatomist's Apprentice", "The Dead Shall Not Rest", and "The Devil's Breath". Just as I expected, the incomparable Mr. Vance's mellifluous voice adds critical layers and textures which make the Dr. Silkstone audio series so outstanding and addictive. Thanks for TWO great literary rides, Ms. Harris!
- Linda Lou "OCD over books, listening to 1 a day; ANY genre, fact & fiction. Influenced by Audible reviewers so I keep mine unbiased - FRONT to BLACK!"
Series has bogged down
This series has been well researched, written and related in audio...however, Harris is sinking into melodrama as she seeks to keep the series going. I suggest she lets the relationship between the doctor and his lady love move forward or end. After four novels It is disappointing to have these two people once again find themselves in a torturous tangle. As I reader I feel like I am trapped in a Saturday afternoon matinee watching the screen fade to gray on a heroine tied to the railroad tracks. I don't think I can endure seven hours of "Bedlam"......the probable site of the next installment in this series