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When evil stalks life in a small borough

Monday, April 09, 2012

A Dark Anatomy by Robin Blake is a very beautifully written debut book, set in Lancashire, England in the 1740s. Blake has created a piece of period literature, taking into account the sensitivities, the conventions and prejudices that were prevalent in that time. Also explained, in very interesting fashion, are the social hierarchies, which in turn determined the legal set-up in those feudal times. The author has provided a flavour of that age in the excellent language, throughout the book.

Squire Ramilles Brockletower’s writ runs in the land but his wife Dolores, a woman of dark-skin and of foreign origin, who he brought back with him on his return from the West Indies, is looked upon with scorn by the locals.

The xenophobia doesn’t change when Dolores Brockletower is discovered dead under an ancient ands probably dying oak tree, her throat slit from end to end. That she is found on her fours, almost in a crouch, spurs further rumours of her private life, with some saying she was a werewolf. It is also common knowledge among the homesteaders that the squire and his wife did not get along.

Coroner Titus Cragg is assigned to investigate and he enlists the co-operation and expertise of doctor Luke Fidelis to provide preliminary observations, prior to conducting a post mortem.

There is no shortage of suspects, and Cragg has the task of going around, probing various angles, from hateful husband who could have killed his wife, to disgruntled ill-treated workers to even religious fanatics. The squire not wanting to have his wife cut open in an autopsy adds to the mystery.

l A Dark Anatomy by Robin Blake Pan Macmillan Rs.350

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