A Matter of Grave Concern by Brenda Novak
Body snatchers, resurrections and missing persons illuminated against the backdrop of the dark side of London, is the setting for this historical, 'black noir', romantic thriller.
It's 1830, and only eighteen months since Burke and Hare, resurrectionists who took the short cut, murdered people and sold their victims for dissection, are still front and centre in Londoner's consciousness, particularly those who are burying their loved ones.
Schools of medicine are looking for bodies to dissect. Surgeons-in-training need more than animals to work on to increase their knowledge and abilities.
When Abigail Hale, a surgeon's daughter, desperately attempts to procure bodies for her father's college, the Aldersgate School of Medicine, she runs into obstacles that most of us would flee from in terror. Instead Abigail walks headlong into a dangerous situation with nary a hesitation.
Abigail finds herself at odds with a resurrectionist's gang led by a brute of a man, Jack Hutsill and a mysterious member of the gang, Maximillian Wilder. Max is not all he seems. He is looking for his half sister Madeline who's vanished into the underbelly of the city. She was last seen in the company of Jack.
When Abigail and Max meet, Max is forced to protect her as best he can. The sparks fly between them.
The thing is Abby is headstrong, naive and a constant danger to those trying to protect her.
An intelligent young woman starved for affection, she just doesn't truly know how to be anything but forthright. I did sympathize with her. Her bald comments about all manner of things including her readings on copulation reveal her unusual upbringing.
I applauded Abby's pluck and creativity from time to time, and railed at her stubbornness at others.
But honestly, mostly I lost all patience with her, wanted to walk on stage, and tell her to just get out of there. She can be a very frustrating person. Not just for me as reader, but for all those she comes into contact with. Being so determined Abby is always walking straight into danger dragging those within her orbit down some unending dramatic rabbit hole.
Max and Abigail's developing relationship is interesting. However Max's later treatment of Abigail didn't ring true to the person he was portrayed as earlier. Yes, he is torn between duty, convention, his mother's will and his love for his sister. The person he feels he ought to be is at odds with who he is. Max doesn't quite live up to the earlier impetuous of a man who will stop at nothing for those he cares for. I can only conclude that he is heavily conflicted.
Despite this, an intriguing read if you have a taste for graveyards at midnight, bodies being carted around under cover of the dankness of London streets and romantic tensions.
A NetGalley ARC