Out on December 27, 2011. Order now from Amazon and Kensington Books

Tessa Harris: novelist & journalist

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About the author

After studying History at Oxford University, I began my journalistic career on a newspaper in my home town of Louth, in Lincolnshire. I progressed onto a London newspaper, where I became women's editor. From there I moved to become a feature writer on Best magazine. After two years I was made editor of a regional arts and listings publication. This was followed by another two years as deputy editor on Heritage magazine. Motherhood meant a spell as a freelance, contributing to several national magazines, such as Country Homes & Interiors, Perfect Home and Woman's Journal, as well as newspapers such as The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian. During this time I also worked as a literary publicist and for a documentary-making company. In 2005 I was made editor of Berkshire Life magazine.

In 2000 I won a European-wide screenplay writing competition run by the London Screenwriters' Workshop and the resulting screenplay was optioned by a film company. The script was set in 18th century London and my subsequent research led to the invention of Dr Thomas Silkstone, an American anatomist and the world's first forensic scientist.

About The Anatomist's Apprentice

The unexplained death of young Lord Crick has unleashed a torrent of gossip through the seedy taverns and elegant ballrooms of 18th century Oxfordshire. Few mourn the dissolute young man - apart from his sister, the beautiful Lady Lydia Farrell. When her husband comes under suspicion of murder, she seeks expert help from Dr Thomas Silkstone, a young anatomist from the wayward colony of Philadelphia.

Thomas arrived in England to study under its foremost surgeon, but his unconventional methods only add to his outsider status. Against his better judgment he agrees to examine the young lord's corpse. But it is not only the dead, but also the living, to whom he must apply the keen blade of his intellect. And the deeper the doctor's investigations go, the greater the risk that he will be consigned to the ranks of the corpses he studies.....
Reading group questions
Dr Thomas Silkstone lived in England during the War of Independence (1775-1783). How did the attitude of the English change towards Americans during this period as reflected in the novel?

In chapter two we read that Mr Smollett donated his remains for dissection. Would you donate your body to medical science?

Thomas is the voice of the Enlightenment in a turbulent age. What deeply embedded prejudices and superstitions does he battle against in the novel?

During an autopsy, Thomas muses on the exact location of the soul. It’s a question that thinkers have been asking since time began. Has science brought us any closer to finding the answer?

Should medicine be the sole preserve of qualified experts or is there room for alternative practioners like Hannah Lovelock?

Had Michael Farrell been sentenced for the murder of Lord Crick, an innocent man would have hanged. Can the death penalty ever be justified when there is any doubt around guilt?

Discuss the mix of fact and fiction in the story. Does it help or hinder a novel when it is based on a true story?

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