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The Anatomy of Deception Paperback – February 24, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Goldstone, an acclaimed popular historian (Out of the Flames; The Friar and the Cipher), marks out new terrain with his compelling fiction debut, a medical thriller set in 1889 Philadelphia. The narrator, Ephraim Carroll, a young, idealistic and somewhat naïve doctor, works alongside the real-life William Osler, often described as the father of modern medicine. Carroll is troubled when Osler, the head of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania medical school, forgoes an autopsy of a woman without explanation. Carroll's curiosity is further piqued after George Turk, a colleague who also seemed unsettled by Osler's actions, dies, apparently of cholera. When Turk's autopsy reveals trace amounts of arsenic, Carroll's suspicions of foul play are confirmed. Goldstone artfully integrates a manuscript the actual Dr. Osler wrote and ordered sealed for half a century after his death. With this top-notch historical page-turner and his proven versatility in nonfiction, Goldstone can expect to win over many new fans. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"You’ll be gripped by this haunting and atmospheric thriller.” —Tess Gerritsen

“Compelling…. [A] top-notch historical page-turner.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“What makes his book so fascinating is the attention to the medical procedures and innovations of the time ... Readers who enjoy Anne Perry’s and Caleb Carr’s psychological thrillers will welcome Goldstone’s brooding, paranoiac addition to the genre.”—Booklist

“Packed with historical asides and real-life figures.”—Entertainment Weekly

“A clever and entertaining tale…. set in the surgical theaters and medical research halls of late-19th century Philadelphia and Baltimore.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Colorful and highly informative.... Evokes the evolving medical profession and the art world in late-19th-century America."—USA Today

“Long before CSI, the dead were offering up their clues…. will thrill lovers of history, medicine, forensics and, of course, a good mystery.”—Parade

“Goldstone weaves history, atmosphere, medical procedures, and forensic details into a fascinating story.…” —Boston Globe

“An entertaining page-turner.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (February 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385341350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385341356
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lawrence Goldstone is the author of more than a dozen books of both fiction and non-fiction. Six of those books were co-authored with his wife, Nancy, but they now write separately to save what is left of their dishes.
Goldstone's articles, reviews, and opinion pieces have appeared in, among other publications, the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Hartford Courant, and Berkshire Eagle. He has also written for a number of magazines that have gone bust, although he denies any cause and effect.
His first novel, Rights, won a New American Writing Award but he now cringes at its awkward prose. (Anatomy of Deception, The Astronomer, and Murtro's Niche are much better.)
Despite a seemingly incurable tendency to say what's on his mind (thus mortifying Nancy), Goldstone has been widely interviewed on both radio and television, with appearances on, among others, Diane Rehm (NPR), "Fresh Air" (NPR), "To the Best of Our Knowledge" (NPR), "The Faith Middleton Show" (NPR), "Tavis Smiley" (PBS), and Leonard Lopate (WNYC). His work has also been profiled in The New York Times, The Toronto Star, numerous regional newspapers, Salon, and Slate.
Goldstone holds a PhD in American Constitutional Studies from the New School. His friends thus call him DrG, although he can barely touch the rim. (Sigh. Can't make a layup anymore either.) He and his beloved bride founded and ran an innovative series of parent-child book groups, which they documented in Deconstructing Penguins. He has also been a teacher, lecturer, senior member of a Wall Street trading firm, taxi driver, actor, quiz show contestant, and policy analyst at the Hudson Institute.
He is a unerring stock picker. Everything he buys instantly goes down.
For those with insatiable curiosity, you can learn more at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Lawrence Goldstone's "The Anatomy of Deception" opens in 1889. As the nineteenth century is drawing to a close, physicians are employing the principles of analytic detection to make diagnoses and heal sickness. In addition, the world is on the brink of a number of thrilling discoveries that will save many lives. The first chapter is set in the Blockley Dead House, a morgue at the University Hospital in West Philadelphia, described by the author as "a squat, solitary brick building [and] a fetid vault filled with cadavers in various states of putrefaction." In this grim edifice, Dr. William Osler, head of Clinical Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, teaches his students morbid anatomy. Among his acolytes is Dr. Ephraim Carroll, who left his private practice in Chicago to learn from "the Professor." To Carroll and his colleagues, Osler is a "modern-day Hippocrates," an astounding man with a tremendous breadth of knowledge and a willingness to share his expertise with the next generation of doctors. Some vocal protesters still oppose autopsy, which they consider to be a ghoulish and unholy practice. Osler is forced to bribe a morgue attendant to absent himself when a fresh supply of cadavers becomes available for dissection.

One day, a session in the morgue ends abruptly when Osler opens up an ice chest containing the corpse of a young, light-haired and once beautiful female whose body had been abandoned in the street. Both Osler and a disreputable medical student named Turk are visibly shocked when they see her, and the Professor quickly slams the lid shut. Ephraim will soon find himself knee deep in a puzzle involving this woman: Who was she? Who or what killed her?
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By David W. Straight on February 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a good, solid effort, and it works very well in giving a sense of time and place in Philadelphia in 1889 and of a medical profession in transition. Goldstone successfully intertwines the lives of real and fictional people--Eakins, Halstead, and Osler (and others) with a fictional protagonist. Medical treatment could be a mixed bag: invasive surgical procedures could be done relatively safely, or could be done in horribly septic conditions. The upper crust of Philadelphia and the lower crust sometimes had much closer connections than you might have thought.

Goldstone has a flair for writing--this becomes evident after just a few pages in the book. The historical flavor is fine. But I was not always convinced about the characters. Carroll (the protagonist) comes to Philadelphia from working in slum areas in Chicago: I would expect him to be much more comfortable, more at ease, in the seedier areas of Philadelphia. Drugs and illegal operations would not surprise him. At the same time, there were many strong social conventions in place. This was, after all the time of the Four Hundred in New York. Being a good physician or surgeon was one thing, but that didn't open all doors.

This is also a book about moral choices, choices made by Carroll and others. The decisions that are made may not always seem right, but these are, after all, individual human choices. It's a satisfying and enjoyable novel, and hopefully just the first of more novels to come by the author.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on February 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Philadelphia in the late 1800s is the setting for this interesting historical mystery novel, which follows the adventures of Ephraim Carroll as he tries to figure out who has killed one of his classmates, a doctor studying with him under William Ohsler, one of the great physicians of the 19th century. Ohsler was a real figure in history, as are several of the other characters in the story, and they provide color for the narrative.

Carroll is an unsophisticated country boy who is somewhat overwhelmed by Philadelphia. At the beginning of the book he's befriended by one of his classmates, a more worldly character named Turk. Turk later turns up dead, and Carroll swiftly makes the deduction that he's been poisoned. When this proves true, Carroll must find out who the killer is and why he did it. As things progress, the plot gets murkier and moral questions arise, some of which don't appear to have a real answer.

I enjoyed this book a great deal. The author does a very good job with the characters and the sense of place. At times it almost seems as if Philadelphia from more than a hundred years ago is real. I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By iubookgirl on August 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This novel falls into one of my favorite genres, historical fiction. That is, fiction that combines true elements of history within the narrative, fleshing out a period in time around characters that existed in real life. In Anatomy of Deception, Goldstone weaves a mystery into 1880s Philadelphia. Dr. Ephraim Carroll studies under the real-life Dr. William Osler, a pioneer of American surgery. Dr. Carroll quickly becomes embroiled in a mystery that seems to have no end of unexpected twists.

Lawrence Goldstone's first attempt at fiction is well-researched and well-written. The pace was slow at times, but I never lost interest in the characters. I would recommend this book to fans of the genre. If you like this, you should definitely check out Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City and Matthew Pearl's The Dante Club.
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