I tend to forget how much I love historical fiction; especially good historical fiction. And this historical thriller , Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor is just that.
It’s set at
Jerusalem college in Cambridge in 1786. John Holdsworth is a book trader who has lost everything: his young son, who drowned in the England Thames and his business. His wife, Maria, who became obsessed and sold all her worldly possessions to try and contact her son, follows a few months later by drowning as well. Holdsworth, a broke and broken man, is soon summoned by Lady Anne Oldershaw, a wealthy upper crust sort, who is concerned about the welfare of her own son who has apparently gone off the deep end at college after claiming to see the ghost of the late Mrs Sylvia Whitcombe. She wants Holdsworth to investigate her son’s nervous collapse and the ghost on the sly while cataloguing her late husband’s library at the college. Jerusalem
Holdsworth doesn’t believe in ghosts but accepts the job for he needs the money. He arrives at
college and becomes the guest of the Master, the ailing Dr Carbury and his intriguing wife, Elinor. Jerusalem
While at the college, Holdsworth does some digging and soon discovers the more unsavoury aspects of the place: the behind the scenes wrangling for power, the sinister Holy Ghost club and the unanswered questions of the death of the ghost in question: the young and lovely Sylvia Whitcombe.
It’s one of those books that makes you resent that you have a life and things to do, like work, dinner, etc. when all you’d rather be doing is reading.
The historical detail he provides transports you back in time to life that was really harsh for the poor. There were no conveniences for the people at the time and
vividly captures the sights and sounds of the time from the smells from the sick room to the night soil man who made rounds every morning with his wheelbarrow collecting excrement. Taylor
There are so many subplots that all come together nicely in the end. And Holdsworth, the non-believer of ghosts, discovers that sometimes it’s the living that haunt you more than the dead.
I was sorry to see this book end. Great book to curl up with on a rainy day. Or any day.