Another "what is this book?" question
March 28, 2020 12:35 PM   Subscribe

In search of the title/author of a book published in the late 90s or early 00s. It's a historical novel about an aging Victorian gentleman who is haunted by the death of his twin brother. The man eventually drills a hole in his own skull using a trepanning tool that he orders from somewhere...

I distinctly remember him sticking his finger in the hole after it's drilled and touching his own brain, asking, "So that's my old bag of tricks, is it?"
posted by Miss T.Horn to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Mick Jackson's The Underground Man?

"Before leaving Edinburgh, the Duke steals Professor Bannister's trepanning kit.

"Upon returning to his estate, the Duke is increasingly distressed at his physical and mental condition. His mental deterioration is even worse because the Duke seems at times to be aware that he is becoming mad. The Duke tries to take matters into his own hands and he uses the stolen trepanning kit to perform the primitive surgery on his own skull. This procedure doesn't cure the Duke, but rather, sends him spiraling into madness at an accelerated rate. In order to conceal his self-inflicted wounds, the Duke becomes even more reclusive and begins hiding from his own staff, including his valet Clement. The Duke leaves his room only at night to wander naked on his estate.

"In the meantime, the Duke does manage to gain more access to the memory which has been haunting him. The Duke learns that the memory corresponds to a childhood trauma in which his twin brother drowns. The phantom boy whose presence the Duke has sensed all along is presumably his twin."
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:12 PM on March 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: YES! Thank you!
posted by Miss T.Horn at 2:33 PM on March 28, 2020

Hah, my dad lent this to a coworker, who in turn gave it her husband to read on the train to/from work. When he got to a/the trepanning part, he literally passed out and only woke up after the train had stopped to allow EMTs to come aboard and attend to him. It was an extreme vasovagal response, similar to what some people have when they see blood.
posted by sideshow at 4:13 PM on March 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

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