Written by Lawrence Goldstone
I seem to be on a rush of non fantasy at the moment. This is one of those fiction books that had such a nice cover that I noticed it when it came into the bookstore where I work and knew I had to read it. Perhaps because I don't know much about the history of medicine or what life was like in the US just before the 20th century, I found this book mesmerizing. The story takes place some five years after the legalization of autopsies for medical purposes, but public perception is still negative to the point that the protagonists, a series of medical students in Philadelphia, must bribe the local undertaker in order to perform them. The amount of side information brought into the plot (the introduction of plastic gloves and specialized clamps to allow for increased surgical times and thereby reduce shock related deaths, the newfangled telephone and a city using half gas lighting and half candlelight, female art students acting in socially improper ways) are as intriguing as the actual plot. The plot itself weaves in so many directions. A woman's corpse is discovered. The professor chooses not to autopsy her body, creating a suspicion in his protege Ephraim Carroll. Another student notices Ephraim's interest and invites him out in order to pump him for information. These two acts introduce Ephraim to the underworld and elements both fascinating and frightful.