This is a historical fiction/ mystery book set in New York in 1843. It follows a young Walt Whitman in his quest to exonerate his friend Abraham Stowe of the murder of a woman he supposedly had an affair with (which the newspapers have named the “Cigar Girl”) and then Andrew’s wife Lena of Andrew’s murder. The book circles around the Stowes and controversy of the Women’s Medical College they opened together (women at the time could not become licensed doctors) and the body snatching industry that supplied medical colleges with bodies to dissect (a practice conflicting with the religious beliefs of the “Resurrectionists” who thought that the dissection would keep people from being able to be resurrected at the Second Coming of Christ). As Walt Whitman and his friend/lover Henry Saunders start investigating these murders, the more they realize the conspiracy to cover these murders involve people at the highest rungs of New York City’s society and the danger they are putting themselves and those around them in.
I found this book was very reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. Edgar Allen Poe is actually a character that shows up a few times in this book. Emerson is mentioned and the fictional Abraham and Lena Stowe were related to the abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe. The plot was very engaging and read fast when I had a chance to read it. I also enjoyed learning about the era in America this book was set in and felt the author did a great job of helping the reader understand the socio-political issues of the time. I also liked that the author kept the book true to life with pointing out that the corruption that has always and will always exist in society and that bringing the truth to light will not always bring justice or even be believed.
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.
I received an advanced copy of this book from Penguin’s First to Read Program with no requirement to review book.