In the midst of a storm, a carriage careens along a mud-choked road. The coachman doesn’t see the lad until it’s too late. Against his employer’s wishes, he takes the injured boy to a nearby physician, whose ministrations bring to mind another boy whose story begins in 1830 Italy. Twelve-year-old Victor witnesses the brutal slaying of his parents by soldiers, who sell him to a ship owner. Life at sea is different, but Victor quickly learns the ropes. Danger threatens once again, and in trying to escape, he tumbles from a mast to the deck. No longer able to walk, the captain orders him thrown overboard.
Victor washes ashore in England where a kind old shepherd nurses him back to health. Unable to support another mouth, the shepherd sells Victor to two men who transport him to London atop a corpse inside a coffin. Victor never forgets this harrowing experience, but it is the first of many lessons he must learn, for these men are body snatchers. The friends he makes as a street urchin and the doctor who treats him after a severe beating provide Victor with hope. His greatest trial comes when his friends mysteriously disappear, and he must overcome his fears to rescue them.
Welsh doesn’t sugarcoat this Victorian world, and while the story may be unsavory and disgusting, he expertly weaves hope throughout the tale. He introduces the reader to the reality of living in the streets during a time when medical experimentation required bodies no matter what the cost. Resurrection Men demonstrates the cruelties of life and how children learn to cope, to adapt. It is not a tale for the faint of heart, but those who venture into its darkness will be richly rewarded for daring to do so.