Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Way of All Flesh

The Way of All Flesh

by Ambrose Parry

5 out of 5

A vivid and gripping historical crime novel set in 19th century Edinburgh, from husband-and-wife writing team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman

Edinburgh, 1847. City of Medicine, Money, Murder.

Young women are being discovered dead across the Old Town, all having suffered similarly gruesome ends. In the New Town, medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson.

Simpson's patients range from the richest to the poorest of this divided city. His house is like no other, full of visiting luminaries and daring experiments in the new medical frontier of anaesthesia. It is here that Raven meets housemaid Sarah Fisher, who recognises trouble when she sees it and takes an immediate dislike to him. She has all of his intelligence but none of his privileges, in particular his medical education.

With each having their own motive to look deeper into these deaths, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh's underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out alive.

Raven is stepping into his new role as a trainee doctor, and is keen to grab every opportunity. Sarah is relegated to the servants quarters, but she longs to be allowed to work in medicine. Despite initially clashing, the two find themselves working together to solve a string of mysterious deaths.

I received a free copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

I found this a little bit slow to start with, but once I got into it, I was hooked.

This is set in Victorian Edinburgh, and follows a young doctor-in-training, Will Raven. He takes up residence as the new apprentice to Dr Simpson, one of the best obstetricians in the city.
Raven is initially driven by a financial need, to pay off debts he has accumulated (for very good reasons), but soon finds himself engaged in working out the mystery of the death of his friend (and working girl). The number of lower-class women and whores who end up dead starts to rack up, but the police have no time for these nobodies. It is up to Raven to find out who is behind the deaths, and why.
I didn't really like Raven in the beginning, his character was just a little bit jarring, too cocky and arrogant; but as the story went on, and the character developed, he got much better.

Sarah, on the other hand, I liked from the start.
She is our other narrator; a maid in Dr Simpson's service. She is also incredibly intelligent, and often grates at the fact that she cannot pursue a career in medicine, because she is a woman. She is further frustrated when Raven enters the house, and has every advantage, despite the fact he is lying about his past. They are of a similar age, and similar intelligence, but are set apart by class and gender; so they naturally butt heads to begin with.

The plot is well thought out, and pulls you along, feeding clues and throwing in red herrings naturally.
What I really like is the background to the story. You feel like you've been dropped into the middle of a period drama, the atmosphere is woven subtly, but is there for every page.
Even better is the insight into obstetrics in the Victorian age, and how medicine and chemistry were coming together to pave the new way. It is realistically gory, but the author does not revel in it, they simply present the facts and let the story do the rest. I felt like I came away learning something, as well as being entertained.

I would definitely recommend this book, and look forward to more of Parry's work.


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