Speakers of the Dead is a mystery novel centering around the investigative exploits of a young Walt Whitman, in which the reporter-cum-poet navigates the seedy underbelly of New York City’s body-snatching industry in an attempt to exonerate his friend of a wrongful murder charge.
The year is 1843, the place, New York City. Aurora reporter Walt Whitman arrives at The Tombs prison yard where his friend, Lena Stowe, is scheduled to hang for the murder of her husband, Abraham. Whitman intends to present evidence on Lena’s behalf, but Sheriff Harris turns him away. Lena drops to her death, and Walt vows to exonerate her.
Walt’s estranged boyfriend, Henry Saunders, returns to New York, and the two men uncover a link between body-snatching and Abraham’s murder: a man called Samuel Clement. To get to Clement, Walt and Henry descend into a dangerous underworld where resurrection men steal the bodies of the recently deceased and sell them to medical colleges. With no legal means to acquire cadavers, medical students rely on these criminals, and Abraham’s involvement with the Bone Bill, legislation that would put the resurrection men out of business, seems to have led to his and Lena’s deaths.
See below for a letter from the author of this fast-paced and gripping debut novel.