The Resurrectionist of Caligo by Wendy Trimboli, Alicia Zaloga

The ResI have to say straight up that I had a good time with The Resurrectionist of Caligo.  I had a few little issues but they were only minor and didn’t spoil the read at all for me.

The Resurrectionist is set in a pseudo Victorian time and place and really plays into that setting.

As the story begins we make the introduction of Roger Weathersby, a body snatcher or grave robber – or ‘man of science’ as he prefers to be called.  Body snatching was, lets just say prevalent, during a certain period in history.  People had no knowledge of anatomy or the inner workings of the body and cadavers were in short supply.  Stealing the dead was actually a legal ‘grey’ area even though resurrectionists were generally frowned upon.  For Roger, employed by an anatomy school and keen to learn more himself, the ends justify the means.  So, spade and lockpicks in hand he starts the story in a graveyard which is where he receives not only a ghostly apparition (to be known affectionately henceforth as ‘ghostofmary’) but also uncovers a body that seems to have been buried whilst still alive!  And this is where the mystery element  begins.

At the same time we make the acquaintance of Princess Sibylla or Sibet to her friends.  The Royal Family line are all bestowed with magic abilities although in recent years these are becoming somewhat diluted.  It’s therefore become popular between royalty and nobles to marry within families to keep the bloodline strong. As such Sibylla was expected to marry her cousin – a fate which she had no stomach for – and has spent a good while in isolation for her dissent.  This is a period of great change.  A time when questions were being asked and superstitions beginning to be set aside.  The divine rights of the monarch are falling under the spotlight and the last thing they need is to lose the support of the people through failing magic.  Sibylla still longs for her first love, a young man who in spite of being far beneath her in station won her heart before disappearing from her life.  Roger is that young man and both he and Sibylla have a difference in opinion about what actually happened to split them apart.

Let me be clear right now – this is not a romance novel at all (at the moment).  Yes, there is an underlying tension between Sibylla and Roger when their paths eventually cross but this has more in common with Holmes and Watson than Lady Chatterleys Lover.  Just saying.

There is plenty of intrigue going on here.  A murderer seems to be at large nicknamed the Greyanchor Strangler who seems to predominantly focus on young ladies of the night!  This is a part of the story that vividly calls to mind all the different theories around the Whitechapel Murderer – old Jack the Ripper himself.  Was it a member of royalty, was it a doctor or surgeon, etc, and these theories and suspicions all play really well into the story.

Along with this there is some royal posturing taking place that also serves to cast suspicions and red herrings around the place.

What I really liked about this were all the little ways that this plays delves into the Victorian era and takes a spotlight to the sort of things that were intensely popular at the time – such as over the top ostentation and elaborate funerals.  There is the intense disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.  The Queen here seems to rule with an iron rod and certainly doesn’t seem to find much to amuse her. Some members of the royal family seem to take their responsibilities very lightly indeed.  There’s the murders and the red herrings and it’s all wrapped up with a sort of light and sometimes almost absurd comedy of manners style that gives it a lovely feel – it seriously could become quite dark and gothic with all the focus on cadavers, murders, ghostly apparitions, graveyards and grave robbings, poverty and fog bound streets and so I have to say that I appreciated the injection of gallows type humour.

In terms of criticisms – very little really. I don’t think I’ve totally got on board with Sibylla yet – which isn’t to say I disliked her but I’m just not quite on side with her yet – although I really did appreciate that she grudgingly took on the pampered princess role.  As it was I much preferred Roger’s chapters so that did sometimes make me race to get to those parts in particular.  That being said, it was the Princess’s chapters that brought the delightful comedy of manners side to the read.

Overall though, I really enjoyed this gaslamp fantasy and I’m keen to read whatever comes next and learn more about the magic and the strange rituals such as binding criminals to members of Royalty,  Given the ending here I suspect the next book will give much more opportunity to travel further afield with both Roger and Sibylla.

Rating 3.5/4 out of 5 stars.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.