‘Medical science is flourishing, and in London the illegal trade in corpses has never been more… alive.’
This quote sums up the novel perfectly. In 1792, sixteen-year-old Ezra McAdam assists at the dissection table as a gifted apprentice to a high regarded London surgeon, learning how to reveal the secrets each body hides. His age is an estimate based on medical measurements as he, a mulatto of mixed race, was bought in Spanish Town by his master, Mr McAdam. The skills he learns as a surgeon’s apprentice will serve him well for life.
Meanwhile, magician’s daughter, Loveday Finch, thinks her father was murdered and enlists Ezra’s help to find out why. The plot takes us through the streets of 18th-century London to vastly differing settings from the operating theatre at St Bartholomew’s, the damp vaults of Newgate Prison, to the inner corridors of the Ottoman Embassy. However, the wealth of detail never slows what is a tightly woven plot.
I did not want to put this novel down. Ezra shows us the world of cadavers from the perspective of medical science, whilst the brave yet vulnerable Loveday introduces the mystery. Together they discover a web of intrigue. The book is both original and informative.
Ezra and Loveday complement each other and entertain, whilst dealing with life-threatening situations. The inhuman aspects of society at the time are mentioned, but it is the positive ways the two react to events which really make the story appealing. The ending holds a delightful surprise, which I hope means Ezra and Loveday will return to intrigue me again. Sawbones is suitable for competent readers of 10+ to adult.