Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Speakers of the Dead - J.Aaron Sanders

Speakers of the Dead is a mystery novel centering around the investigative exploits of a young Walt Whitman, in which the reporter-cum-poet navigates the seedy underbelly of New York City's body-snatching industry in an attempt to exonerate his friend of a wrongful murder charge.

The year is 1843; the place: New York City. Aurora reporter Walt Whitman arrives at the Tombs prison yard where his friend Lena Stowe is scheduled to hang for the murder of her husband, Abraham. Walt intends to present evidence on Lena's behalf, but Sheriff Harris turns him away. Lena drops to her death, and Walt vows to posthumously exonerate her. 

Walt's estranged boyfriend, Henry Saunders, returns to New York, and the two men uncover a link between body-snatching and Abraham's murder: a man named Samuel Clement. To get to Clement, Walt and Henry descend into a dangerous underworld where resurrection men steal the bodies of the recently deceased and sell them to medical colleges. With no legal means to acquire cadavers, medical students rely on these criminals, and Abraham's involvement with the Bone Bill—legislation that would put the resurrection men out of business—seems to have led to his and Lena's deaths. 

Fast-paced and gripping, Speakers of the Dead is a vibrant reimagining of one of America's most beloved literary figures. 

My thoughts:
I do not know a lot about Walt Whitman; poet, American, and then my knowledge ends. Sorry Walt, but you might have been mentioned or not. All I remember from that poetry class I took is Rochester, and my lovely WW1 poets. But never mind that! In this fictional story that blends fact with fiction we get to see him when he was a journalist and struggling writer, and not the famous man he will be later on.

New York, the 1840s. A time of immigration, cholera, a police force not always doing police work, a time of lynch mobs (those are so scary). Not a time of justice.

What we then get in this book is a mystery, Walt's friend is hanged for the murder of her husband. He refuses to believe it (and she is obviously framed is my first thought too.) He tries to get to the bottom of this and believes it has to do with the corpse business. Medical school needs corpses, corpses are dug up from graves. A nasty business. But I get it, they need corpses, for science

Then we also have the Women's Medical school where it all happened, and the struggles women went through to be taken seriously. A woman doctor, madness!

Conclusion:
It all blends together in a well written interesting historical mystery. A great era. A dangerous era for asking questions. But Walt was never afraid of getting to the truth of things.

Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Plume
Historical mystery
For review


40 comments:

  1. Great to hear it was a well written historical myster

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  2. I honestly don't know much about Walt Whitman either. Fail. Glad this was a fun read for you!

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    1. I am glad I do not have to know anything to read it ;)

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  3. I really don't know anything about Walt either. I read a review for this last week and I was surprised to learn that he had a boyfriend in this one. Who knew? Not me.

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    1. Yes he did. I did check wiki afterwards and it does seem he had many ;)

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  4. Sounds like one I would love.

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  5. oh I love a great historical mystery!

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  6. Don't know much about Walt as well, but I've read a good review of this book and have wanted to read it ever since. I'm definitely curious now!

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  7. I love historical mysteries. Especially when they center around well known people.

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    Replies
    1. I am so not into contemporary, but historical and I am all yes

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  8. I love a good historical as well. Glad this worked for you!

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  9. I wasn't fond of his poetry, but I would definitely read a mystery with him as the detective and cool, a Mark Twain sighting.

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  10. it's great to find a good historial mystery!

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  11. Wow, what a find, Linda! I'm adding this - thank you so much :) Walt Whitman caught in a murder conspiracy? Of course I'm interested!

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    1. Yes! I do think you would enjoy it

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  12. I've never been a fan of Whitman, but I do like a good mystery, so I'm going to be looking for this one.

    Simply Angela

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    1. And I still have not read a poem by him

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  13. This sounds like a very interesting read. I'm not usually big on historicals, but a murder mystery around science sounds really interesting. Great review. :-)

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    1. I love historical. Mystery, not so much, but set in a historical setting and I am all yes

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  14. I know that they're gimmicky, but I love seeing novels that incorporate famous writers into their story arcs. I'm definitely intrigued by the medical school for women - very cool!

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  15. I do like the sound of this one :)

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  16. Sounds interesting. Of course, I know about the same as you when it comes to Walt. I think we studied him in American Lit back in 11th grade!

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    1. It makes sense we are more focused on Europe so poor Walt might have gotten a passing mention

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  17. "A nasty business. But I get it, they need corpses, for since."

    For...since? You lost me :D

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    1. No idea what I meant...oh science

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  18. oooh Walt. I like some of his stuff.
    This sounds good.

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  19. lol I can't say I know much more than that about him either.

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