Lawrence Goldstone

Books: Mystery

The Anatomy of Deception (2008)

The Anatomy of Deception (2008)

Anatomy of DeceptionEphraim Carroll is a young doctor studying under the great William Osler (a doctor who would go on to be one of the founding professors at Johns Hopkins). Osler is a somewhat controversial doctor, who embraces the newest medical techniques including sterile surgery, and autopsy as a method of education (autopsy was legal at this point in history, although still reviled in many quarters).

When the body of a beautiful young woman appears to startle both Professor Osler as well as one of Epharim's classmates, he becomes curious. When the same classmate asks Epharim to join him for dinner that night, things become even stranger, and soon he is involved in trying to determine who the young woman was and how she ended up dead.

For the most part the mystery was very good, although it was occasionally uneven--the italicized remembrances of the young woman interspersed though the story felt needless and not particularly helpful--the horror of what she went through didn't need these short bursts of storytelling--that horror is clear enough in what is uncovered by Epharim. But aside from the occasional rough patch, the story was fascinating, both the mystery and the history interspersed through the story. There are many historical characters appearing, including not just William Osler but also the doctor William Stewart Halstead and the painter Thomas Eakins. (It probably tells you something about me that I was familiar with both Osler and Halstead, but had no idea that Thomas Eakins was a real person.)

The author strove for historical accuracy in both the setting and also the medical techniques described (and yes, autopsies are described in detail, although clinically).

The other issue I should mention is that the author's opinions about abortion are quite clear in this story. I tended to gloss over such moralizing, but I have friends who I know would be extremely irritated by those sections of the story.

All in all, I though the medical history was fascinating, though the mystery could have been better.

Rating: 6/10