“I was to make myself a killer.” In 1865, a man calling himself Septimus Whitehall slashed, shot, and burned his way from New York to California in a frenzy of violence. This is his own story, told in his own words.
Seven names were on the doctor’s list. Seven men and women scattered all over the United States and its western territories. Seven souls judged guilty by a mysterious man with no past apart from the loss for which his enemies are blamed. The War Between the States is over, but Septimus Whitehall intends to wage a bloody war of his own and he is willing to cut down almost anyone who stands in his way. From New York City and Boston on the cusp of the Gilded Age to the war-ravaged ruins of Alabama and Arkansas, through the mythic American West and beyond, Whitehall will practice his violent vocation until everyone on that list meets the Sawbones.
SAWBONES is quite the unusual read. The author creates a sympathetic character in Septimus Whitehall as he travels from New York City to the Dakota Territory, seeking to murder those who are on his “list” of victims. Whitehall is avenging the death of his only love by taking the lives of those who were involved in her death, either directly or indirectly. There is wonderful detail in the author’s descriptions of Five Points in the 1800’s, as well as the Civil War, and the unsettled West. As I read, I felt as if I were there, seeing, hearing and smelling the same things Septimus was.
Another curious and fascinating thing about SAWBONES is the author’s use of language. I consider myself to be quite familiar with the English language; yet there were many words that I needed to look up. As I read the definitions I felt as if I had struck gold. I became familiar with words such as effigial, pantophagy, and raillery. As I’ve said before, any book that makes me look up definitions is always a winner.
Septimus is at times a complete gentleman and then a murderer. He stalks his prey yet remains courteous to others. He is clearly an intelligent man with deep emotions but with a singular goal; eliminate those on his macabre list. During his journey he encounters many roadblocks, skirting his own death all the while. He is a solitary man with one purpose in life, and it is easy to cheer him on as he searches for his victims.
This is definitely a violent and gory read, but the balance of gore and period detail are perfectly blended. As I kept reading, I wondered when the book would draw to a close – it is actually quite long. However, the author kept me interested by throwing in some action just as the book bordered on dull/too much description. That being said, I totally loved SAWBONES. It’s a quirky, intelligent read that will stay with you long after you are done reading. I would love to see a sequel to see what Septimus is up to now.
You can get your copy here.