Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Dark Anatomy by Robin Blake

First Sentence:  According to the case notes, a checked against my private journal, it was on Tuesday the 18th of March, 1740, that a succession of disturbing events ran their course through the life of our tidy Palatinate town of Preston.
Coroner Titus Cragg is called to view the body of Dolores Brokletower, wife of the local squire.  The body is moved to the ice house until an autopsy by Cragg’s friend, doctor Luke Fidelis, can be done and then an inquest called. Before that can happen, the body disappears and more deaths occur.  Who is trying to prevent the inquest and why?
 I really like Blake’s voice and that the story is told in first person.  While that’s not usually my favorite, it really works here as it helps provide a sense of time; a bit before Jane Austen.  There is even a nod to “Dear Reader” of Charlotte Bronte.  Yes, there is a mild portent, but I was willing to forgive it.
There is delightful, natural humor incorporated in the narrative, which adds to the appeal of the protagonist. “I let her [Cragg’s wife] sign of the cross go without comment.  She was always more the papist when she had been with her mother.”  Cragg’s discussions with Fidelis on medicine versus religion, and with his wife on witchcraft, religion and spiritualism are very well done.  They a provide perspective on attitudes and science during that time and the information is well incorporated into the story through both dialogue and the narrative of Cragg. 
Blake has created wonderful characters in Cragg, his wife, Elizabeth, his clerk Furzey and friend Fidelis.  These are characters about whom we come to care and want to know more.  What’s nice is that both they, and the less than appealing characters, are fully dimensional and interesting.
Blake definitely knows how to create a dramatic moment.  It leads to a startling twist and, thus, a fascinating discussion. 
A Dark Anatomy” is filled with wonderful characters, a strong sense of time and place, excellent dialogue and a cracking good plot.  I can’t wait to read his next book, “Dark Waters.”  Highly recommended.  

A DARK ANATOMY (Hist Mys-Titus Cragg/Luke Fidelis-England-1740) – VG+
Blake, Robin – 1st in series
Minotaur Books, 2011

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