James McGee – Resurrectionist

James McGee

Resurrectionist (2007)

Harper Collins

pp. 400

ISBN 978-0007212712

Book description (from amazon.com).

Hawkwood, the Regency James Bond, returns in this gripping, action packed sequel to the bestselling ‘Ratcatcher’. Matthew Hawkwood. Soldier, spy, lover – a man as dangerous as the criminals he hunts.

The tough Bow Street Runner is back where he’s not wanted, in the most forbidding places London has to offer: its graveyards and the rank, sinister halls of Bedlam, the country’s most notorious lunatic asylum.

There are missing bodies all around – dead and alive. ‘Resurrection men’ serve the demands of the city’s surgeons by stealing corpses – and creating a few of their own along the way.

Far more worrying is the escape from Bedlam of a very unusual inmate: one Colonel Titus Xavier Hyde, an obsessive, gifted surgeon whose insanity is only matched by his dark intelligence. And this twisted genius has a point to prove. Which will mean plenty more work for the gravediggers…

Review.

Welcome back the dangerous Regency-era London, heart of darkness of the first part of 19th century. This is the turf for the adventures of Matthew Hawkwood, one of the strongest characters ever developed for this historical age. James McGee stages for his readers another good novel, strong based on real history and well connected with the harsh feeling of a very difficult time.

Hawkwood has to investigate two different murders, both of them grisly and fearsome. The first body has been discovered in a cemetery, nailed to a tree; the second is a disfigured man, found in a room of the infamous Bedlam asylum. There’s more than enough to worry even a Bow Street Runner but soon the plot starts to unravel, getting speed at each chapter and forcing the reader to discover one of the most disgusting trade of all times, devoted to steal and sell corpses.

The main characters share the common experience of the Napoleonic Wars fought in Spanish territory, memories of horrors and despair that can hardly be forgotten. Titus Hyde, former army surgeon. Butler and Sawney, former soldiers already connected with Hyde’s business in Spain, Hawkwood and his friend who were together in the Rifles regiment. The war and its enormous death toll is what drive so many widows on the street, forced to become molls to feed themselves and their children, exposed to be prey of cruel criminals and greedy landlords.

Even a madman like Hyde, driven to the extreme consequences by too many futile deaths, can find connections and a way to escape from Bedlam. Even a monster like him can find his way to think the unthinkable and go where no surgeon has been before. It’s up to Hawkwood to find and stop this criminal, no matter the cost and no matter how high in the rank he will have to inquire.

McGee delivers another fine work with this book; high rhythm, good plot, more than your usual share of action and well portrayed characters with a fine mix between real life people and fictional fellows. The detail level and the historical accuracy grant a good experience for the reader, even if not familiar at all with the Regency era. Highly recommended.

The author.

James McGee (Clatham, 1950)  is an English author, best known for the four novels dedicated to the adventures of Matthew Hawkwood. By now the complete list is the following: Ratcatcher (2006), Resurrectionist (2007), Rapscallion (2008) and Rebellion (2011). To my knowledge none of this books has been translated in italian.

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