Thomas Guthrie Carr is charged by Eliza Gray with mesmerising her and raping her while she was under his influence. But if mesmerism and Mr Carr are shams, was Eliza raped?
In the tradition of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Charlatan is the story of a notorious nineteenth-century court case involving a larger-than-life character. With a driving narrative and novelistic pacing, this scrupulously researched account of the life of Thomas Guthrie Carr, stage mesmerist – who lied, fought and sleazed his way around Australia and New Zealand between 1865 and 1886 – is more than just a fascinating piece of social history. It’s also a mystery, a piece of true crime, and a delicately humorous portrait of a man whose eye for the main chance and ferocious pursuit of publicity made him an oddly contemporary figure.
With a star-studded supporting cast, including the Duke of Edinburgh, the Mad Dentist of Wynyard, the Nunawading Messiah, and a host of shady mesmerists, spiritualists, phrenologists and hired goons, Charlatan delves deep into a side of colonial history not often explored, and unearths a Victorian celebrity who should never have been forgotten …