Source: First to Read and publisher for review
Speakers of the Dead is a mystery novel centering around the investigative exploits of a young Walt Whitman, in which the reporter-cum-poet navigates the seedy underbelly of New York City's body-snatching industry in an attempt to exonerate his friend of a wrongful murder charge.
The year is 1843; the place: New York City. Aurora reporter Walt Whitman arrives at the Tombs prison yard where his friend Lena Stowe is scheduled to hang for the murder of her husband, Abraham. Walt intends to present evidence on Lena's behalf, but Sheriff Harris turns him away. Lena drops to her death, and Walt vows to posthumously exonerate her.My thoughts:
Walt's estranged boyfriend, Henry Saunders, returns to New York, and the two men uncover a link between body-snatching and Abraham's murder: a man named Samuel Clement. To get to Clement, Walt and Henry descend into a dangerous underworld where resurrection men steal the bodies of the recently deceased and sell them to medical colleges. With no legal means to acquire cadavers, medical students rely on these criminals, and Abraham's involvement with the Bone Bill—legislation that would put the resurrection men out of business—seems to have led to his and Lena's deaths.
Fast-paced and gripping, Speakers of the Dead is a vibrant reimagining of one of America's most beloved literary figures.
I have to admit that at first I wasn't happy to have Walt Whitman as this character. It just didn't mesh with the picture in my head. However, reading the notes by the author at the end really brought it to clarity for me. He tells that he took an aspect of Walt's life and then built a mystery around it. It made so much more sense to me and really changed how I saw this book.
It took a while for the mystery to really congeal in my head. It seemed to be a bit disjointed but as the story became less a horror story (it felt that way at first) and more a mystery it really caught my attention. By the end I really wanted to know what happened and who did it. AND even at the point where everyone knew who the culprit was, it was so entwined with other people we really didn't have one person to accuse. While this does not work for every book, it works here and it keeps a thread open for more mysteries.
While this isn't a romantic type of book, the romance between Walt and Henry really pulled at my heartstrings. It was sweet and really the one aspect that pulled me through the beginning of the book. I think romance lovers will love and hate that aspect of the book (I will not say why, but you will get that statement when you read it).
I give this book 4 stars. It is a good mystery and even a thriller where no one is safe and the ending is messy but complete.