Archive for March 8th, 2012

The Anatomy of Ghosts

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

By Andrew Taylor

The Short Take:

Once again Taylor explores another place and time in this mesmerizing mystery. ┬áThis time it’s a college in 1786 Cambridge, England; where some young men go to learn, others go to endlessly amuse themselves, and one has been labeled insane because he saw a ghost. To get to the bottom of this unfortunate situation, his mother sends an investigator who adamantly denies the existence of ghosts. It’s a really good read — as much for the mystery as for the window on this other world..


Taylor writes a smart mystery. In addition to multi-layered plots, interesting characters, and misleading clues, he also utilizes unique and interesting settings for his novels. And, his in depth research makes them come alive. His fictional Jerusalem College is no exception, with it’s faculty rivalries, student pecking order, and less-than-stellar academics.

The way he reveals his mystery through the investigation of ghost sceptic, John Holdsworth, leads you to suspect virtually everyone of everything. Questions of who is responsible for the ghost appearance, the deaths of two different women, the disappearance of a rare book, and other questionable activities all intertwine. In lesser hands, it would be enough to make your head spin, but Taylor keeps things clear and understandable.

Of course, I was totally wrong about almost everything I suspected. But that just adds to the pleasure for me.

A Little Plot:

Holdsworth’s wife was so addicted to hearing a medium’s messages from their dead child that she ultimately ruined their finances and killed herself. That drove him to write a book denouncing the existence of ghosts. In turn, the book brought him to the attention of the wealthy mother of a college student who claimed to see a ghost.

So Holdsworth heads to Jerusalem College, where he encounters — among other things — a group of debauched young men with a secret club, multiple academic rivalries, and a caste system that very clearly squashes the common man. Knowing there are no ghosts, Holdsworth is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery as well as help the young man currently imprisoned at an insane asylum.

He’s got a lot on his plate, and is still dealing with his own internal ghosts.

For more about Taylor and his work, click here.


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