1786 England, a college setting, a secret society, blackmail, murder and madness, the perfect combination for the perfect book. What could be better? Not much if you are writer Andrew Taylor. Taylor offers up a compelling read, one that will have you staying up late wondering how it will all play out.
Poor bookseller John Holdsworth has been hit with a triple tragedy. First his young son drowns, and then his wife in a fit of despair kills herself in the same water. During this horrible time Holdsworth, having spent his saving on a book collection, looses it and his shop in a fire. In his anger and grief Holdsworth writes a book debunking ghosts and those who prey on others grief. Most copies are lost in the fire, but there is one person who does have a copy; Lady Anne Oldershaw, a wealthy widow with an unusual request. She asks now destitute Holdsworth to catalog her husbands book collection and bring home her son who has been committed to a mental hospital. Frank Oldershaw has had a breakdown after seeing a ghost while in college. Holdershaw must find out what Frank really saw and help him recover his wits. This leads Holdershaw into a world of secrets, murder and blackmail. All masterfully crafted and laid out by Taylor.
This was one of the best books I have read in a long time. I am unfamiliar with Taylor, yet he has a long list of book titles to his name. Anatomy of Ghosts is Taylors 28th book and it shows. There are no glaring plot holes, his characters are fully flushed out, and his writing is engaging. Once I started the book I had a very hard time putting it down. Crime lovers will enjoy him as he keeps you guessing right up to the end. I thought I had it figured out, and was pleasantly surprised when I found I was wrong. This was not a case of a red herring (which I dislike), rather Taylor allows the reader to assume who the murderer is only to surprise the reader with the truth. It was there all along, and had I been a little more observant and less caught up in the story I may have figured it out. This was the beauty of the book, I enjoyed the story. I enjoyed how it played out in front of me. I did not distract myself with the mystery; I just sat back and let Taylor tell his tale. What more can you say of a book? What more would you want? Anatomy of Ghosts should not be missed.