Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Minutes of the Lazarus Club by Tony Pollard

As I like a good mystery/thriller, am quite fond of 19th century literature and believe very much that fun books should be on the menu just as often as more serious literature, when I ran across The Minutes of the Lazarus Club in another blog (sorry, don’t remember whose), I felt it was a must read for me.

Surgeon and lecturer George Phillips suddenly finds his life becoming very interesting indeed when he is asked to join The Lazarus Club: a club for the most eminent men in their fields. Each contributes to the club by holding talks about subjects in his own expertise, thus widening their scope of interest and knowledge. George is bemused, but honoured, to be asked to join and endeavours not to disappoint with his first lecture on the workings of the heart. He is well received and thus taken into the fold with enthusiasm. When Brunel, the engineer who asked him to join in the first place, asks George to pick up a package for him, George suddenly finds himself running for his life in an effort to keep that package safe. He is chased around London, his rooms are searched and someone illusive is following him. Adding to his troubles, he is suspected of murdering young girls, mutilating their bodies and disposing of them in the Thames.

Despite the rather clichéd and action heavy plot (in my humble opinion, this book would make a great film), Pollard’s characters are strong and likable. There are enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and one or two resolutions which I didn’t see coming at all. One thing that did irritate me a bit was the “name dropping” Pollard engaged in. Adding characters like Darwin and Florence Nightengale into the mix seemed a bit hokey and unnecessary. I personally felt he would have done better to create his own characters instead of trying to integrate historical figures into a fictional novel, although the introduction of Darwin did throw up a few interesting points on the introduction of evolution. However, I think that’s a personal view and won’t necessarily negatively affect other reader’s opinions of the book.

I also want to mention that not being very mechanically inclined; I often had a difficult time picturing what was happening. I haven’t got a clue about ships, steam engines and the workings of valves. However, I was able to happily skim through the more technical bits without feeling like I was missing something terribly important; meaning that intimate knowledge of mechanical workings is not a prerequisite for reading the book, although you might get more out of it if you were more mechanically inclined than I am.

All in all it was a good weekend read; enjoyable and not overly taxing. It gets a 3.5 out of 5 rating from me.

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