The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry

Art of Dying

Canongate Books|29 August 2019|416 pages|e-book|Review copy|5*

A Note From the Publisher

 

Many thanks to Canongate Books for an e-book review copy via NetGalley.

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Edinburgh, 1847. City of Medicine, Money, Murder

Canongate Books|30 August 2018|417 pages|Review copy|5*

The Way of All Flesh is the debut novel from Ambrose Parry: co-written by best-selling crime writer Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman.

I knew as soon as I began reading The Way of All Flesh that I was going to enjoy it – it’s historical crime fiction at its very best.

Full of atmosphere and historical detail, I could easily believe I was there in Edinburgh in 1847 as Dr James Young Simpson, a professor of midwifery, discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform. It combines fact and fiction most successfully, the social scene, historical and medical facts slotting perfectly into the plot.

It begins with the death of Evie, a prostitute in Edinburgh’s Old Town, found by Will Raven, a young medical student about to start his apprenticeship with Dr Simpson. Will, Evie’s friend is suspicious, the place was reeking of drink and Evie’s body was in a state of contortion. He flees the scene, not wanting to be implicated in her death. There is a mystery surrounding Will – he has a past that he wants to conceal, and he is in trouble with a couple of villains who beat him, slashing his face when he is unable to repay his debt to a moneylender.

Will is anxious to fit in with the more genteel society of the New Town, where Dr Simpson has his surgery, a place where people from all levels of society congregated – the poor who attended his clinics, the wealthy who also wanted treatment, and the medical students and colleagues experimenting with new drugs and medical techniques. When Will comes across similar deaths during his work with Dr Simpson he is determined to find out who is responsible  – was it the same person who had killed Evie?

Sarah, Dr Simpson’s housemaid is an ambitious and enterprising young woman who would love to have a career in medicine just like the male medical students. Initially she dislikes Will, but eventually they join forces to uncover the killer in the depths of Edinburgh’s dark underworld . Through Sarah’s eyes we see the frustrations and limitations that all women experienced and through Will’s eyes we see the grim realities and danger that women at all levels of society faced with childbirth and unwanted pregnancies, and the brutally primitive state of the medicine of the period. The medical scenes are indeed gruesome and the attitudes of some of the clergy with their opposition to the use of anaesthetics is deplorable. The authors have combined their specialities to provide a compelling murder mystery interwoven with the exciting discovery of chloroform and how it transformed surgery.

This is without doubt an impressive and well written book that gripped me throughout – definitely one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year.

And I am so pleased that this is not the end of Will as Chris and his wife, Marisa are planning more novels revealing the development of medicine and the part that the Simpson household played. Also, I see that Benedict Cumberbatch’s SunnyMarch production company has secured the TV rights to The Way of All Flesh.

Thank you to Canongate Books and NetGalley for my copy of this book for review.

WWW Wednesday: 15 August 2018

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading:

I’ve started my Classics Club Spin book, He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr. Set not long after the Second World War end this is a ‘locked room’ type of mystery, in which the body of Howard Brooks is found, stabbed to death, on the top of a tower, but the evidence shows that no one entered or left the tower during the time the murder took place.

And I’m still reading Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore, non fiction about Mary Eleanor Bowes who was the richest heiress in 18th century Britain. She fell under the spell of a handsome Irish soldier, Andrew Robinson Stoney and found herself trapped in an appallingly brutal marriage. Fascinating reading that if it was fiction you’d say you couldn’t believe it.

I’ve recently finished:  

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola, which was published on 26th July 2018. See yesterday’s post for the opening paragraphs and synopsis. It’s beautifully written and as I like folklore and legends, with a mystery interwoven within it, I’ve been enjoying this very much.

I’ll post my review in the next few days.

 

My next book could be:

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry, co-written by best-selling crime writer Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman, to be published on 30 August 2018.

Synopsis

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, 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.

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you?