6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Totally gripping debut novel.,
This review is from: The Secrets of the Lazarus Club (Paperback)
Set in 1857 and seen through the eyes of surgeon Dr George Phillips, The Secrets of the Lazarus Club has to be one of the most gripping books I've read in a long while. It opens with a fantastically gruesome attempt by a waterman to retrieve a mutilated female corpse from the Thames, one of many prostitutes to be found with the same horrific wounds. Those of a delicate constitution may falter at the prologue, so good is Pollard's descriptive of the filthy river and festering body.
Phillips finds himself in the company of the great engineer Brunel, who, having almost completed his ship, the Great Eastern, is inquisitive to learn more about the inner workings of the human machine, and Phillips is just the man to assist him. He is also just the man whom the police suspect is behind these mutilated bodies.
And so, Brunel issues the doctor with an invite to the Lazarus Club, a secret gathering of the most forward-thinking men of the age. In come Darwin, Russell, Bazalgette, Brodie, Babbage and the fantastically mysterious Ockham, all keen to share their own discoveries and learn of others. Soon Phillips realises that not all of the secrets of the Lazarus Club are in the pursuit of honest achievements, and he finds himself in the middle of a very murky plot. The story has many twists as Phillips attempts to clear his own name and put right a broken promise.
Florence Nightingale has been beautifully written into the story, she is feisty and strong, but still retaining a brilliant wit and an ability to sense the danger that Phillips is in. Her infamous lamp is put to a macabre use in the novel too!
Phillips' character is intriguing, the decisions he makes are not always the ones you are expecting. You get a great sense of atmosphere in the story; the streets, the smells, the hugeness of Brunel's ship and the engineering achievements both big and small! There were moments that made me laugh and moments that made me reel #brace yourself when you get to the old mill# but the real joy is in how Pollard has managed to weave into his great novel so many historical figures and still retain believability and excitement on this level. This is his first novel, and I for one can't wait for his second.