Review Blog

Oct 28 2010

The Life of a Teenage Body-Snatcher by Doug MacLeod

cover image

Penguin Books, 2010. ISBN 9780143203919, p/b, 303pp.
Highly recommended (for ages 14+). The title and cover of this novel are major attractions - one cannot resist picking it off the shelf and checking it out! Once the story begins, there is no thought of putting the book back on the shelf! Doug MacLeod has the reader hooked from the first page. Set in England in 1828, the opening pages take the reader at night to a ghostly cemetery where Thomas Timewell is digging up the corpse of his grandfather, buried only that day. He has good reason for doing this but is interrupted by the appearance of 'professional' body-snatcher. This is Plenitude and he offers to help Thomas with this grisly task.
There is much to discover about Plenitude and his life, and he has some amazing colleagues. Weaving through Thomas' story are fantastic characters as well - we meet his disoriented mother, the alcoholic housekeeper Mrs Greenough, his worldly 14 year old adopted brother John, his insecure school friend Charlie Callow, his obsessive teacher Mr Atkins, and the author of some ghastly popular fiction Mr Wilks who is not what he seems.
This is a clever black comedy full of gruesome and outrageous adventures.
Wildly imagined, the story keeps us reading! We are shown much of English society at the time - London at night, the prison system, class inequality and the publishing industry, plus plenty of body-snatching!  MacLeod's story is somewhat gross and confronting at times, but he cleverly balances this with humour and a strong sense of the importance of family, loyalty and friendship.
I invite you to check out Doug MacLeod's website too - it is a beauty.
This book should have a wide teenage audience - adults will love it too.
Julie Wells

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