“Edinburgh, 1847. Will Raven is a medical student, apprenticing for the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson. Sarah Fisher is Simpson’s housemaid, and has all of Raven’s intelligence but none of his privileges.
As bodies begin to appear across the Old Town, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh’s underworld. And if either of them are to make it out alive, they will have to work together to find out who’s responsible for the gruesome deaths.”
Welcome to damppebbles and to my review of The Way of All Flesh. The Way of All Flesh was written by Ambrose Parry (also known as Christopher Brookmyre and Dr Marisa Haetzman) and was published by Cannongate Books in paperback format on 30th April 2019. I received a free eARC of this book from NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.
What an absolutely wonderful historical mystery this is! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t read enough historical fiction. I loved the setting (a dank and foggy Edinburgh in the 1840s), I loved the characters and I loved how wonderfully descriptive the writing is. I was completely immersed in the story and I relished every single moment of it.
Medical student, Will Raven, acquires an apprenticeship with the renowned obstetrician, Dr James Young Simpson. He is certain a life of riches awaits him and hopes his association with the esteemed Professor will ensure a line of wealthy patients queue up outside his door seeking his services in return for great financial remuneration. Arriving at 52 Queen Street in a bloody and battered state Raven soon realises that not everything is as he first hoped and is aghast when the good Doctor is called to a less-than-salubrious abode and waves off payment. Raven was sure he would be treating wealthy ladies from the New Town and living the high-life on the doctor’s coattails.
When the doctor and Raven witness a young woman’s contorted body being pulled from the docks Raven is reminded of his friend, Evie and how her body was discovered in a similar horrifying state. Could the deaths be connected? And what could cause the bodies to contort in such a way? Raven enlists the help of Sarah Fisher, the doctor’s housemaid and together they try to solve the mystery before more young woman lose their lives in such a horrific manner…
There’s so much to this book. Yes, the mystery element plays a part but there’s so much more to it than that. The characters are just wonderful. I loved both Will and Sarah. Will is a little priggish at times but he can be forgiven as his heart is in the right place, no matter how it initially seems. I adore Sarah and I loved how ahead of her time she is. Wanting to break down those gender and class divides – it’s clear to the reader that she does not want to settle for her lot and her intelligence and thirst for knowledge is an inspiration (unfortunately it just doesn’t *quite* fit into 1840s Edinburgh life). Brilliant characters and I am thrilled to hear they will return in a second book.
Dr Simpson’s quest to ease the pain and trauma of childbirth for his patients by discovering a new anaesthetic, therefore replacing ether, was a fascinating sub-plot which I thoroughly enjoyed. There are some scenes in the book which are a little on the gory and upsetting side but these tend to relate to medical procedures and just the way situations were dealt with in the 1840s.
Would I recommend this book? I would, yes, and I’m very much looking forward to the second book in the series which is out this Summer. I loved how wonderfully atmospheric the writing is. I loved the characters and can’t wait to see how they develop in future books. A great historical read and one I heartily recommend.
I chose to read and review an eARC of The Way of All Flesh. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry was published in the UK by Canongate Books on 30th April 2019 and is available in hardcover (which is beautiful, by the way), paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |
Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for a collaboration between Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. The couple are married and live in Scotland. Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels. Dr Marisa Haetzman is a consultant anaesthetist of twenty years’ experience, whose research for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine uncovered the material upon which this series, which begun with The Way of All Flesh, is based. The Art of Dying is the second book in the series.
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