Ian Weir’s novel Will Starling is part history, part mystery. The book opens in Victorian London, in 1816. The title shares its name with the main character: Will Starling a surgeon’s assistant. The story is told from Starling’s point-of-view as he sits awaiting execution by hanging in Newgate Prison for a murderous accident.
He takes us through the story’s events, what he wasn’t there for, he makes up. We see him starting out on the battlefields of the Napoleonic wars, following his boss Comrie back to London to set up a practise in one of the rougher parts of the city.
Rumours circulate of people being brought back from the dead, of odd sightings on the streets and at windows. Will investigates, and his findings lead him to a rival surgeon: Dionysis Atherton who he’s convinced is involved. But Atherton is considered an up-and-coming “man of the town”, and nobody believes Will. Conviction turns to a deadly obsession
The writing is lively combining a dry humour, and active voice throughout. The story is populated by colourful characters from a housemaid high on laudanum Phylida Deakins, to a wannabe actress who at times speaks in Capital Letters.
What a fun read. I give it a 9/10.