Resurrectionist by James McGee
Review by Jacqui Slaney
I enjoyed the first book by James McGee ‘Ratcatcher’ and I liked the character of Hawkwood so did not hesitate when this second story in the series was published.
This is the description:
Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood brings his own form of justice to the salons and slums of Regency London in the gripping sequel to 'Ratcatcher'. For the body snatchers, death is a lucrative business. However, it is the corpse they leave behind, horribly mutilated and nailed to a tree, which sets Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood on their trail. A new term at London's anatomy schools stokes demand for fresh corpses, and the city's "resurrection men" vie for control of the market. Their rivalry takes an ugly turn when a grave robber is brutally murdered and his body displayed as a warning to other gangs. To hunt down those responsible, Hawkwood must venture into London's murkiest corners, where discoveries that are more gruesome await him. Nowhere, though, is as grim as Bedlam, notorious asylum for the insane and scene of another bizarre killing. Sent to investigate, Hawkwood finds himself pitted against his most formidable adversary yet, an obsessive genius hell-bent on advancing the cause of science at all costs.
I am always concerned when I read the first in a series that the next book will be disappointing. In this instance, this book is just as good as the first; in fact, I think this one is actually better.
This story is about the need for fresh bodies for the medical schools to practice on and so describes the practice of grave robbing and the rivalry between the different gangs. After one of these gang rivalries ends in a death, Hawkwood, the Bow Street Runner is assigned to the case. The story takes an even more gruesome turn following an escape from Bedlam, which is also given to Hawkwood to deal with. He then soon discovers that he might not be investigating two separate cases after all.
The character of Hawkwood in the first novel appeared to me to be a little naïve. In this book, he comes across as stronger; much more suited to his surroundings and the story itself is nastier, much darker, and at times horrific.
Some people have complained about the gruesome slant of the story saying they do not like it, that it is not as fun as book one and that it is just too intense. Yes, this book is gruesome, I found myself shuddering at some of the events, but the story is about grave robbers, and medicine in the 1800’s, so I would say that this would be a clear indication that this is not going to be a light comedy story.
McGee has clearly researched the background to his novel well; the reader gets a good descriptive image of what London is like and how people live. The historical note at the end of the novel is also interesting. The plot is gripping and suspenseful and there is plenty of action. It is clearly a book two though, so you will need to have read ‘Ratcatcher’ before this novel, as events and characters from the first book are mentioned.
This book is not for the squeamish, but if you enjoy good writing and a good plot, then read this book, you will not be disappointed.
10 out of 10