Random House, 2017

Available from
Angus & Robertson


Thomas Guthrie Carr was charged by Eliza Gray with mesmerising her and raping her while she was under his influence. But if mesmerism and Mr Carr were shams, was Eliza really raped?

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 true crime story and a slyly humorous portrait of a man whose ferocious pursuit of fame and fortune made him an oddly contemporary figure.

With a  supporting cast that includes 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 deeply into a forgotten side of colonial history.

Catherine Jinks has struck gold tracing the story of this larger-than-life figure who has rated barely a footnote in Australian colonial history. Zesty, well-researched and highly readable, Charlatan … is an engaging portrait of the consummate, archetypal Victorian showman … Jinks deftly weaves her biography around his legal drama and its aftermath, giving the book a strong narrative thread and an opportunity to examine the arcane moral standards of the time.
The Australian

‘… [a] rollicking, lively and entertaining study …’
The Sydney Morning Herald

‘Jinks’s always engaging, fast-moving narrative … [is] sprinkled with humour, scandal and nuggets of history … The portrait is of an era, not just of a man …’
Sisters In Crime

‘[An] excellent piece of historical detective work … very well written
and constantly interesting.’

  • Tom Storm

    Dear Ms Jinks,

    What a terrific interview on ABC Radio National (02/02/2018)- a reminder of what a marvelous rogue’s history we have in Australia. There were remnants of it in the 1950′s (my pre-teen childhood) when swaggies, gypsies, tinkers, itinerant knife sharpeners and small circuses still plied their crafts and diminishing arts. Ignorance, pseudo science and gullibility (or maybe innocence) kept them alive beyond their shelf date. I feel you captured something greater than just the story of a rogue showman and quack. Even in the 1960′s there were phrenologists working the Sunday afternoon crowds in Sydney’s domain…maybe you could tackle the eminent Domain speakers who were colorful and fearless in their promotion of tortured thinking and twisted philosophy standing on their soap boxes back then.

    Anyway – I just wanted to say well done – because it was.


  • Catherine Jinks

    Thank you so much, Tom! Phrenologists in the 1960s? Really? I did not know that. I must admit that while researching my book, I was amazed at how RACKETY the mid-Victorian era in this country was – so many people doing so many wacky things, and so much mixing of the classes – far more than I’d realised. It was all strangely modern, in a way. And fascinating of course.

    Speakers in the Domain? That’s an interesting topic. If you’re not going to tackle it yourself, I might have a think about it ….

  • Joan Bartlett

    Dear Ms Jinks

    Heard your interview on RN and, as a result, bought the book, which arrived today. My interest is to find out if your research led you to any connections with Fred Bell (“the Rev Fred Bell”, “Dr Fred Bell”, “Dr Frederic Bell”). I went first to look at your book’s index, but there is none. Fred plied the same type of trade as Dr Carr and was really notorious, given the desultory research I have undertaken (Fred is an ancestor of an extended family member and I “found” him in my family tree work). Fred was born in Sheffield UK in 1826, but his greatest notoriety seems to have been in the US (New York). He also travelled to Australia, to Sydney and Brisbane I think- but I can find little about this. Fred was known as “the singing preacher”. He was always on the run from the authorities for some reason or another, and scandals involving women feature largely. (He did mindreading and all that stuff on stage too). The interesting thing for me has been how his talents: Music, stage and writing has persisted down the generations – at high levels too. So, long story, but did you come across Fred Bell, the singing preacher in your research? I now look forward to reading about Thomas Guthrie Carr. Thank you.

  • Catherine Jinks

    I’m afraid I never did come across Fred Bell, that I can recall, but I wish I had. He sounds FASCINATING. Have you tried looking him up on ‘Trove’? I bet if you went to the newspaper database and entered variants of his name you’d find something – as long as he wasn’t working under a pseudonym. I’m surprised I didn’t encounter him, because all those types used to cross paths a bit in Australia (unless, of course, he was a little later than Carr).

    Thanks very much for buying my book, which needs all the help it can get. I’m sorry there isn’t an index; the notes almost killed me, and since the publisher didn’t insist on an index, I gratefully didn’t bother with one. I suppose I’ve been spoiled by years of writing fiction …

  • Alex Cayas

    Hi Catherine Jinks, I am writing to see if you would be interested to take part in an authors talk event series here in The Blue Mountains. My email address is

    Would love you to give a talk based on this fascinating book.