Paperback review: Sawbones, By Catherine Johnson


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The Independent Culture

Sawbones is a novel for children and young teens, centring on young Ezra MacAdam, a surgeon’s apprentice in 18th-century London who is also “mulatto” (mixed race) and a freed slave from Jamaica.

It’s part of his job to help his master dissect corpses (cue lots of gory descriptions), and one day an unusual cadaver – a black man with his tongue pre-removed – is delivered to the dissecting room. Chocks away for an entertaining crime caper, involving the Ottoman Empire, an exiled Turkish prince, Russian spies, resurrection men, smuggled gems and murders galore. Loveday Finch, a red-headed, rapier-wielding conjuror’s daughter becomes Ezra’s friend and detective partner. One is reminded a little of Jamila Gavin’s Coram Boy – this isn’t quite as literary, as well-wrought, or as serious, but it’s fun in the same kind of way, so if you or your child liked that, you or your child will probably like this.