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Speakers of the Dead

Speakers of the Dead - J. Aaron Sanders This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life.

Wow! I am kind of shocked by how much I ended up enjoying this book. I grabbed this book to review without a lot of thought. I later looked at it and wondered what the heck I had been thinking. I don't read poetry. Ever. Ok...I was forced to read some poetry in both high school and college but since then my poetry reading has been limited to greeting cards. In other words, Walt Whitman was not any kind of draw for me. My distaste for poetry didn't even matter because you don't have to know anything about Mr. Whitman to enjoy this book. It might even be better that I didn't know a thing about the man to be honest because I could just go along with this fictionalized version of him without any difficulties.

This story is set in New York during the mid 1800's. The story really focuses on cadaver dissection and body snatching during that time period. I love books that involve forensics or medical information so this story ended up being a great fit for me. I just found the whole topic to be incredibly interesting. This was a period of great learning and in order to learn about the human body, physicians need to be able to see how things work by dissecting cadavers. There was no easy way to acquire bodies legally so body snatching became a very lucrative business. The fact that the college at the center of the story was for women just added another layer to the story.

There is a lot of excitement in this story and I was immediately hooked. There are murders to be solved and a whole lot of suspense along the way. The characterization of Walt Whitman in this story was really very interesting. Yes, this was a fictionalized version of Walt Whitman but I really liked him as a character in this story. He was passionate about proving the innocence of his friends and saving those that he could. I liked that he used the resources that he had to shake things up and try to get the answers that he was looking for. He was willing to make huge sacrifices in order to achieve his goal often putting himself at risk. I thought the feelings between Walt and Henry was sweet and felt very authentic.

I liked the writing style in this story. The book opens with a bang and there were a lot of scenes that were action packed. The action heavy scenes were nicely balanced out with others that really made me stop and think. The descriptions of what was involved in taking a body from the grave and the dissections were really well done. I really didn't figure out who was behind everything until the very end and there were some moments that I was really nervous for the characters. It was really kind of fun to have characters show up in the book that I have heard of and I could help but grin at Edgar Poe in the story. The historical setting was very well done and added a lot to the story as well.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a different kind of mystery. This re-imagining of Walt Whitman is very thought provoking and incredibly entertaining. Once I started reading this one, I really didn't want to put it down. This is the first book by J. Aaron Sanders that I have had a chance to read but I am looking forward to his future works.

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Penguin Publishing Group - Plume Books via First to Read for the purpose of providing an honest review.

Initial Thoughts
Wow! This was really good. I was pretty much hooked from the very beginning and ended up reading the whole book in a single day.