Perhaps Will Starling was born to hang. He was left at a foundling hospital as an infant. Once he was old enough to strike out on his own, Will press-gangs himself into the British Army to fight Napoleon. (There was some question about whether or not the infantryman was joking or not.) Just when you think Will has landed on his feet as a surgeon’s assistant in London, love and hatred pull him into a dark mystery in Ian Weir’s Will Starling.
Our first clue that things are not going well for Will is his admission that he’s writing from a condemned cell in Newgate Prison. He’s writing, as the broadsheets would have it, his “Last Dying Confession.” In this confession, Will pieces together the events of the previous March of 1816, when a rogue surgeon tried to cure death and ruined the lives of nearly everyone who knew him.
Will get involved when a man choked to death on a candied plum while trying to assault Will’s sweetheart. Later, the sweetheart comes to tell Will that she saw the man and was afraid for her life. Will’s questions lead him to Dionysius Atherton. Atherton is rich and connected and untouchable when it comes to the law.
As Will pieces together what happened to Atherton’s victims, Weir paints a highly detailed portrait of London for his readers. London, in Will Starling, is peopled by Resurrection Men, rakes and Cyprians, actors willing to fake testimony in court, unethical scientists, bruisers and ex-soldiers. I adored the language Weir used. His vocabulary is refreshingly gargantuan (a good eighteenth century word), peppered with classical allusions and Latin malapropisms. I had a great time reading this book.
I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 3 February 2015.