The Tell-Tale Heart
Harper Perennial, Feb 10 2015, $14.99
Fifty years old university lecturer Patrick spent decades of debauchery until his doctor tells him he has no more than six months to live due to a severely damaged heart. Patrick receives a second chance when a healthy fifteen years old boy dies in a tragic accident. At Papworth Hospital using the beating heart technique, doctors successfully transplant the lad’s organ inside Patrick.
Once recovered from the surgery, Patrick finds what pleasured him for years now leaves him ennui. He discusses this with his doctor who insists no evidence exists that cellular memories from the donor comes with the organ. Needing to know about the lad, Patrick learns he has Littleport resident Drew Beamish’s heart beating inside him. With an obsession to learn who was this teen who gave him a second chance, Patrick looks into Drew’s life and that of present and past relations including the early eighteenth-century relative Willis involved in a bread riot.
The engaging Tell-Tale Heart is an enthralling story that provides readers with perspectives from the recipient, the donor and the ancestor. There are two intriguing overarching themes: that the austere Fens has a thriving beautiful ecosystem for those looking beyond the bleak; and whether it is cellular or not a transplant changes the recipient’s outlook (think of Ghost Whisperer’s episode Mended Hearts) in many ways including a degree of separation to the late donor as close of not more than twins share. Although the Willis subplot adds depth to the premise of expanded memories beyond one’s experiences; it also interferes with the more appealing contemporary subplots.