"It was at Oxford that I first met Bysshe. We arrived at our college on the same day; confusing to a mere foreigner, it is called University College. I had seen him from my window and had been struck by his auburn locks." The long-haired poet - 'Mad Shelley' - and the serious-minded student from Switzerland spark each other's animated interest in the new philosophy of science which is over-turning long-cherished beliefs. Perhaps there is no God. In which case, where is the divine spark, the soul? Can it be found in the human brain? the heart? the eyes?
Victor Frankenstein begins his anatomy experiments in a barn in the secluded village of Headington, near Oxford. The coroner's office in Clarendon Street provides corpses - but they have often died of violence and drowning: they are damaged and putrifying. Victor moves his coils and jars and electrical fluids to a deserted pottery manufactury in Limehouse. And, from Limehouse, makes contact with the Doomesday Men - the resurrectionists.
He pays better than any hospital for the bodies of the very recently dead. Even so, perfect specimens are hard to come by ... until that Thames-side dawn when Victor, waiting, wrapped in his greatcoat, on his wooden jetty, hears the splashing of oars and sees in the half-light that slung into the stern of the approaching boat is the corpse of a handsome young man, one hand trailing in the water....
Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, as well as a broadcaster, biographer, poet and historian.The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein has affinities with Hawksmoor, an equally creepy and brilliant historical novel, which won both the Guardian fiction prize and the Whitbread Novel of the Year, and with Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem, an East End novel which is imagined with equal power and ingenuity. His most recent novels are The Fall of Troy, The Lambs of London and the bestselling The Clerkenwell Tales. He has a CBE for services to literature.