This review is for the audiobook version of The Dead Shall Not Rest, by Tessa Harris, narrated by Simon Vance. This is the second in the Dr. Thomas Silkstone Mysteries series.
Several years ago I read the first in this series, The Anatomist’s Apprentice, but had no idea there were sequels until the Overdrive algorithm suggested I might enjoy The Dead Shall Not Rest.
Dr Thomas Silkstone is a surgeon from Philadelphia studying as an apprentice to a well respected surgeon and anatomist in London at the end of the 18th century. During his first mystery he *spoiler?* met and became engaged to Lady Lydia Farrell, a young widow. This second instalment begins with Lady Lydia hosting a festival on her estate, including a sideshow starring real life “giant” Irishman Charles Byrne. She separates him from his unscrupulous handler and takes him to London to make his fortune. Thomas meanwhile meets a famous surgeon named John Hunter, a man known to obtain corpses by less than legal avenues. He is invited to a musical performance of a few visiting Italian Castratos, one of whom later ends up dead and with his entire voicebox carefully removed. This is of course the mystery for Dr Silkstone to solve. At the same time he is treating the Irish Giant’s tuberculosis, trying to figure out what is upsetting Lydia, treat the Castrato that has been wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of his friend, and devising a way to keep Byrne’s body from Dr Hunter.
If that sounds like a mishmash of disconnected storylines, it’s because it is. Charles Byrne and Dr Hunter were real people the author wanted to write about. They happened to live at about the same time the first Silkstone novel took place, and she kind of shoehorned them into the sequel. There’s also a homicidal French barber, a secret cabal of surgeons, a dwarf Count visiting from Eastern Europe, a band of friendly Irish drunks, and Franz Joseph Haydn (who did in fact know and work with Dr. Hunter’s wife).
It wasn’t unpleasant to listen to or too difficult to keep track of the stories, but they never seemed to really fit together. I would have prefered a different story about Byrne, and a separate story about Silkstone, but I still have the third book in the series queued up and ready for tonight.