So I have this story I’m writing which is set in a world vaguely based on mid-nineteenth century England. It’s not particularly true to life – there are zombies – and I’ve thrown in a heap of anachronisms all over the place (such as the types of technology used) but the story hinges on a character who’s a doctor (or pseudo-doctor is more like it) and a graverobber. The idea is that he’s chopped up a heap of bodies and sold them to people all over the place.
What I want to know is: How plausible is this? Exactly how common was it to sell stolen body parts (for medical/scientific analysis and for other reasons)? Not just to steal them, since every source I’ve found has reflected that it was pretty common, but to have a very prolific business in it? How would he conduct said business – and how wide a range of customers can I give him before it just becomes too daft? Who (in your opinion – I’m going for narrative atmosphere here; suspension of disbelief is allowed) would have been his likely customers? How much would he have been able to sell the parts for?
Sorry for the deluge of questions, and some of it I can probably work out on my own, but I’d really appreciate any input.
Googled: grave theft, grave theft nineteenth century, body snatching nineteenth century.