Fails to Raise Even the Dead

ResurrectionistcoverI hate to write a bad review, but in this case I feel I must.  I picked up James McGee’s  The Resurrectionist because it was billed as a “regency thriller” and promised an exciting mystery in a historical setting.  I was hesitant, because this is a second book in a series, but a well-written story should stand on its own in spite of that.  But, sadly, there were much deeper problems to address.  The novel starts out with the escape of a brilliant madman from the notorious Bedlam asylum in a scene ripped bleeding from the pages of “Silence of the Lambs.”  This madman surgeon, it seems, was incarcerated for performing bizarre operations on prisoners during the war.  Now he has escaped, and the bodies dug up from fresh graves are turning up,  exhibiting the same strange signs:  skin removal, organ harvesting, and amputations.  Enter the evil gang of grave robbers for hire, led by a particularly nasty thug, Sawney, and his prostitute side-kick, Sal.  These two are hired by the surgeon to provide a fresh supply of bodies for his experiments.  The case comes to the attention of an almost vigil-ante lawman known as a Runner, Matthew Hawkwood, who seems to be the only police officer who has not been fooled by the faked death of the madman, and vows to hunt him down.  Despite the murders and chase scenes and ghoulish details of digging up the dead, the book did not capture my interest until well into it, because the characters were all reprehensible and uninteresting.  Perhaps because this was the second in the series, I did not care one jot about the hero, Hawkwood, who seemed wooden and one-dimensional.  The character who peeked my interest was the mad surgeon, and I kept of reading to find out what his motivation was for maiming the dead.  Alas, when revealed, that was disappointingly flat as well. Hawkwood, with a heavy dose of deus ex machina, discovers the locale of the fiend, and gathers his boys to assist him in launching an assault.  Again, all of a sudden new characters are introduced, who I suspect appeared in the first book.   In the climatic ending, when our hero confronts the villains, it turns absolutely comical.  As everyone knows, when caught redhanded in the act by the police, a criminal immediately launches into a soliloquy  on his philosophy of life and motivations.  How often have we re-lived this scene in books when the bad guy stops everything to explain himself or how he executed his crimes to the man apprehending him?  Oh, then it goes from comical to ludicrous.  Instead of making a clean get-away (remember, the surgeon is a mastermind), he hands Hawkwood a sword in order to allow him a chance to defend himself.  Really?  The author did conduct extensive research into the era and captures it well in pub scenes and other descriptions, but sometimes even these interesting historical facts feel hand-jammed into the tale, as if the author felt compelled to tell us all he knows, whether it fits or not with the flow of the narrative.  I confess, however, his knowledge on the practice of selling dead bodies for medical researches is exhaustive, including as many grizzly details as a reader can stomach.  But as many horrific details as he could muster would not resurrect this stinking corpse of a tale.

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