Reviewed by Christian C. for TeensReadToo.com
1830, Modena, Italy. 12-year-old Victor returned to his home and had to watch with horror the cruel murder of his parents by three Tyrolean soldiers. The reason? They were Carboniaris, a group of revolutionaries that fought to keep Italy united.
After the massacre, the soldiers sold Victor as a cabin boy to the Chief Mate of the Ceres, a ship that was about to set sail. The ship departed from Italy, and sailed along the Mediterranean coast through the Strait of Gibraltar. It sailed past the coasts of Portugal, northern Spain, and France.
One day, in the middle of a big storm, Victor climbed up the mainmast, all the way to the topgallant, trying to escape from a crew member whom he had accused of stealing food. But as the seaman drew closer, Victor lost his footing, fell on the deck, and crushed his leg completely. The Chief Mate didn't think twice: "A cabin boy who cannot walk is of no value to this ship.... Throw him overboard." Which he did.
Clinging to a gaff, Victor drifted in the middle of the sea for several days, until he arrived at the coast of England. He was rescued by an old man and his dog. The old man treated his leg, fed him, and taught him how to speak English and fight with his crutch.
After a few months, the old man couldn't afford to keep Victor any more and, once again, Victor was sold. This time to Tipple and Biggs, two unscrupulous men who took Victor to London, by hiding him in a coffin with a decaying body.
In London, Victor lived in a house full of children and animals. He was forced to beg in the streets during the day. Life in London at that time was difficult: jobs were scarce, health conditions were deplorable, the streets were full of excrement and mud; people were dying of cholera. Victor soon discovered that there was a black market for dead bodies and body parts. Doctors wanted to study the human body and were willing to pay high amounts of money for them. People like Tripple and Biggs met the demand, and were willing to do anything for a few guineas, including digging up corpses, kidnapping, selling, or even killing someone. Victor found out that Tripple and Biggs were after some of his friends, and he decided that he had to reveal the mastermind of this wicked market and put an end to it.
RESURRECTION MEN is an intense, dark work of historical fiction that made me read every page intently to the end, while trying to cope with the knot of sadness and anguish that I had in my stomach. T. K. Welsh's rich vocabulary and detailed descriptions, where almost no noun goes without an adjective, transported me to the streets of London, and made me smell the putrid odors of the city, live the horrors of the children's lives, witness the horrid dissections of the dead bodies, and hear the unsettling noise of the broken bones.
When I finished the novel, I was looking forward to reading the section at the end of the book that explained which historical facts of the book were real, but unfortunately, there was none.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction and is interested in learning more about an unfortunate time in the history of medicine and the city of London. But if you're looking for a fun, happy read, this may not be it!