Speakers of the Dead
Review: Poet and journalist Walt Whitman is drawn to investigating the case of the murder of a prominent physician, his pregnant wife convicted and hanged for the crime, in Speakers of the Dead, the first mystery in this series by J. Aaron Sanders.
New York City, 1843. Dr. Abraham Stow and his wife Lena have established a medical college and are training Elizabeth Blackwell to be the first female physician in America. When Stow, who was known to be a womanizer, is murdered, suspicion falls on his wife. Though pregnant, she is convicted and executed. Walt didn't believe Lena was guilty and sets out to determine who really killed Stow. With his friend Henry Saunders, Walt uncovers an illegal operation of grave diggers, who supply cadavers to local teaching hospitals, the only way they can obtain them at the time. They also learn that Stow was involved with legislation known as the "Bone Bill", which would legalize families donating the bodies of their recently deceased relatives to hospitals for research and teaching purposes. Stow was firmly in support of the legislation, which was opposed by Isiah Rynders, a Tammany Hill boss, who ran the illegal — but also quite profitable — cadaver trade. As Walt begins to publish his findings, he puts himself in grave danger.
Speakers of the Dead provides a solid and really quite fascinating introduction to real-life figure Walt Whitman as amateur sleuth. The fact that he did, in fact, take on the position of an investigative journalist at a local newspaper to pay the bills while he separately concentrated on publishing his poems lends an authentic foundation to the story. The murder mystery is nicely structured, but it's the backdrop of mid-19th century New York City that really shines here. Highly recommended to fans of historical mysteries.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Speakers of the Dead.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided a copy of Speakers of the Dead for this review.
Review Copyright © 2016 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Speakers of the Dead: New York City
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Speakers of the Dead by J. Aaron Sanders — A Walt Whitman Mystery
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: March 2016
List Price: $16.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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