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Review: The Anatomy of Ghosts, by Andrew Taylor

Pages: 469

Original date of publication: 2010

My edition: 2011 (Hyperion)

Why I decided to read: it was offered through Amazon Vine

How I acquired my copy:, November 2010

Last year, I read one of Andrew Taylor’s other books: Bleeding Heart Square, set in Earl’s Court in the 1930s, right in the heart of the British fascist movement. The Anatomy of Ghosts is completely different. Set in 1786, it features a bookseller who is commissioned by a wealthy lady to catalogue a library, while at the same time find his benefactress’s son, a student at Cambridge who has been committed to an insane asylum.

It’s an interesting premise, but it’s not an original one. The author turns to all the old clichés: a femme fatale (guess where that story line is going?), a mysterious library, a murder, a secret mission, etc. Taylor doesn’t really go out of the box for this book as he did with Bleeding heart Square, and Holdsworth, his main character, is about as bland as they come. Maybe I’m becoming heartless, but I really couldn’t sympathize with his situation. The story about Frank, the young man in the asylum, was tragic but also very bizarre at the same time. As I progressed with the reading of this novel, I found myself caring less and less about the characters and plot, to the point where I had to stop about 2/3 of the way through.

Although the book is supposed to be set in the late 18th century, it really could take place at any time, anywhere; there’s no historical detail to make me think that this book was set in 1786. I enjoyed the promise of having a supernatural element to the story, but it kind of got lost along the way for me. There are lots of details, however, about the politics of college life, which were sometimes interesting and sometimes took away from the flow of the plot. I wish I could have enjoyed this book more than I did; but different strokes from different folks, I guess!


Heidi said…
You're tougher on this one than I was after I read it, but in retrospect you're probably spot on about it. I didn't catch that it was a re-working of an old plot so it was a new story for me. I agree that the supernatural part got left behind.
iubookgirl said…
I'm glad I'm not the only one who didn't enjoy this one. I kept reading hoping it would get better and was thoroughly disappointed at the end. If you'd like to read my thoughts, they are here.

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