Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Lazarus Curse

The Lazarus Curse

by Tessa Harris

2 out of 5

In 1780s London, American anatomist Dr. Thomas Silkstone is plunged into a swirling cauldron of sorcery, slavery, and cold-blooded murder . . .When the sole survivor of an ill-fated scientific expedition to Jamaica goes missing upon his return to London, Dr. Thomas Silkstone--entrusted with cataloging the expedition's New World specimens--feels compelled to investigate. There are rumors of a potion that has the power to raise the dead--and the formula is suspected to be in the private journal that has disappeared along with the young botanist.

As Dr. Silkstone searches for clues to the man's whereabouts, he is drawn deeper into a dark and dangerous world of vengeance, infidelity, murder, and the trafficking of corpses for profit. Without the support of his beloved Lady Lydia Farrell--from whom he has been forcibly separated by law--he must confront the horrors of slavery, as well the very depths of human wickedness. And after a headless corpse is discovered, Dr. Silkstone begins to uncover the sinister motives of those in power who would stop at nothing to possess the Lazarus potion.

Dr Silkstone is caught up in a fellow academic's murder, and the murky world of slave freedom in London.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

First of all, I would like to state that I DID NOT KNOW THIS WAS PART OF A SERIES.
When I requested this from Netgalley, nowhere did it mention that this was not the first book - it just said that it was a Dr Silkstone book.
Nowhere on the cover or introductory pages in my ecopy did it mention the rest of the series or a series order.
Perhaps if I had known this was an established world I might have been a bit more forgiving, and the things that annoyed me might not have... as much.
I don't know, maybe Harris wants her books to be read as stand-alones as well as part of a series. And you can read it as a stand-alone; it is easy to follow and you quickly learn the characters and their place in the world.

I just... didn't care.
I have come into this story in a place where Thomas and Lydia are in love but are not permitted to marry. They lead very separate lives (Thomas, a busy doctor in London; Lydia managing her estate and young son in the country); they keep in touch by letter, but these are highly edited and keep major facts hidden from each other (that Thomas is investigating a murder; and that Lydia has employed a new estate manager that her son adores).
Aside from the letters, there are no connections or intersecting storylines between these two. The chapters that focus on Thomas are a murder mystery and questioning of the slave trade. Lydia's chapters could well be scenes from a Jane Austen novel. Both are good in their own way, but feel shoved together unnaturally in this book.

I did like the plot - that earned the stars for me.
A voyage to collect newly discovered plants seems to be cursed as two of the senior scientists died on the return trip; and the third, a young illustrator, is murdered in London.  There seems to be something about the innocent, purely academic trip that has caught the attention of some very dark characters.
At the same time, Thomas gets drawn into the woes of black slaves. Slavery has been made illegal in England, but visiting American slaves are still at the mercy of their masters, and are seeking any way out.

Both were good, but again - very disconnected. The only thing that linked the two was the fact that they involved Thomas, and he just wasn't a strong enough character to pull it off.

So, Thomas.
He was very bland. He was a good scientific narrator, he took you along the story logically, but with only a sniff of emotion and no personality.
I didn't care about him.
He is a good guy, acts like a gentleman to everyone he meets, and always does the right and moral thing. He isn't preachy, he isn't entitled, he isn't... anything.
I questioned quite a few things that he did. Why is this doctor investigating a murder? I found it bizarre that this man of medicine took it upon himself to look into the murder, and why his colleagues didn't raise any objections, and weren't the least bit surprised (again, this could be something established in the rest of the series, but at the time I didn't know it was the 4th book).
Why is he investigating? He isn't tenacious or driven by curiosity. He isn't excited when it goes right, or frustrated when it goes wrong. He is just this blank space that drifts from one scene to the next.
The clues felt like some sort of game. Have you spoken to the prostitute? YES. You have unlocked the next clue. Have you spoken to the widow? NO. Go back to the widow to unlock your next clue.
Information was drip fed to Thomas to keep him going in the right direction, and I got annoyed when certain characters decide that they will unveil something now, when they could have before, it was all just a little clunky.

Thomas treats each person as an individual, regardless of the colour of their skin, or their gender. That is nice and all written believably.
That this simpering and soft Dr Silkstone who shows no physical merit throughout the book, is suddenly able to fend off a couple of brutes long enough for a nightwatchman to come by? Sure.

So overall, an interesting array of historical stories, even if they didn't mesh. I don't think I'll be reading the rest of the series.

Goodreads link

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