It is Edinburgh, 1822, and young Robbie is eight years old when he witnesses his mother's pain and subsequent death from an operation - without anaesthetic - to remove a tumour from her breast at the hands of Dr Knox. Haunted by this terrible event, Robbie, his hapless father and baby sister Essie attempt to move on with their lives. But when Robbie's father loses all their money and disappears, Robbie is left to look after himself and his sister in the Edinburgh slums. Somehow he falls in with Burke and Hare, the two men whom Knox employs to 'collect' bodies for medical research. Robbie sees a way to avenge his mother's death. Convincing himself that Knox is having people killed for him to experiment on, Robbie eventually confronts him. But Robbie comes to realise that for all his hard-heartedness and corrupt methods, Knox's motives are ultimately for the good: to improve surgical conditions, and operate on patients with the greatest speed and therefore minimum risk. Robbie eventually trains to be a surgeon, finally giving meaning to his mother's tragic death.
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(197mm x 130mm x 18mm)
Hodder Children's Books
Publisher: Hachette Children's Group
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
A psychological study made stomach-churningly intense by its squalid 19th-century setting and gruesome historical milieu. Having watched his mother die in agony from infection following a mastectomy performed without anesthesia, Robbie conceives a violent hatred for the surgeon, Robert Knox. After further misfortunes leave him and his little sister Essie fending for themselves, one step from Edinburgh's filth-laden streets, Robbie's obsession grows-particularly after he witnesses Knox dissecting human corpses. Morgan mirrors her riveting account of Robbie's internal maelstrom with a plot that includes primitive surgery, vicious poverty, drunkenness, and imprisonment, all graphically described. In language that sometimes spins toward the poetic-Robbie's hatred "was sleet-cold, and shaking, and full of darkness"-she casts her tormented teenager into the company of Knox's psychopathic "suppliers," drags him through a period of alcohol-hazed despair, then guides him past hard, life-changing choices that ultimately allow him to put aside his consuming rage. Here's harrowing reading-made all the more so by the closing revelation that Knox and his practices are drawn from life. (historical note) (Fiction. 12-15) (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Nicola Morgan
Nicola lives near Edinburgh with her husband, two daughters, and a dog. After obtaining a degree in Classics and Philosophy, her various past jobs have included, cooking business lunches and plucking turkeys. She worked as an English teacher for 16 years and has promoted child literacy for many years. She has written over 65 non-fiction titles, including some for Hodder Wayland, but achieved a 21 year old ambition when her first and critically acclaimed novel, Mondays Are Red, was published as a Signature title by Hodder in 2001. Nicola's favourite pastimes are reading, glass-painting, creating mosaics and cooking. She hates gardening, but likes nothing better than to sit in a beautifully tended one.