#BlogTour | #GuestPost: The Quality of Mercy by Malia Zaidi (@MaliaZaidi) #TheQualityOfMercy #LadyEvelynMysteries #damppebbles

The Quality of Mercy cover“After years spent away, Lady Evelyn is at long last back in her home city of London and she has returned with a rather controversial plan. The Carlisle Detective Agency is born, and it does not take long for the bodies… ahem, cases, to start piling up. With her friend and assistant Hugh, Evelyn embarks on the quest to solve the crimes. Yet the London she encounters is not the London of her coddled youth, and she is forced to learn that there is more to discover than the identity of a murderer. It isn’t only her city which reveals it is not what she always believed it to be, but the people she encounters as well. Secrets are revealed that have her thinking twice about everything she thought she knew about the society in which she grew up.

Evelyn’s love for her hard-won independence confronts her with yet another mystery, whether she is ready or willing to give up any of it for marriage. And then there is the arrival of rather a familiar face in London, one Daniel is none to pleased to see. Evelyn must find not one but two murderers, as well as make a decision that could determine her future. From the mansions of Mayfair to the dark alleys of Whitechapel, can Evelyn catch the killers before another life is taken?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing a guest post from Malia Zaidi, author of the Lady Evelyn Mystery Series, as part of the blog tour for book five – The Quality of Mercy. The Quality of Mercy was published on 25th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats. This is a series I’m keen to get stuck into so I’m delighted to be able to share this fascinating post on the life of a character.

Over to Malia…

The Life of a Character

I consider myself a character driven reader, by which I mean, if the characters are intriguing, well developed, rounded enough, I can forgive a weak plot and still love the book. In some ways, this character focus accompanies me on my writing journey as well. Don’t get me wrong, I aim to create a gripping and well plotted story, but those stories are, in a sense, crafted by the characters and not the other way around. Their decisions, actions, thoughts and desires dictate how the story moves along instead of them bending towards the plot. This process works for me and it may not for other writers, there is no right or wrong. Here I’d like to discuss a little how certain characters take on a life of their own and in that way influence or even change how I go about writing my books.

A character who has been present in The Lady Evelyn Mysteries from the second book (A Darker Shore) onward is Hugh Lawrence. He appears when Evelyn and Daniel are in Amiens, France on a quest to find Daniel’s long lost brother. I had intended Hugh to play a small role, to be a side character in only one book, but as the story unfolded, throughout the long editing process, I came to grow quite fond of him. He seemed to me a figure I should not let go of so easily. As he became more fleshed out on the page, he took on real dimensions in my mind as well. I thought about his past and how his time serving as a somewhat unwilling soldier in the First World War shaped him; how so many men of his generation gave their lives but also so much of themselves to a bloody and miserable effort they often hardly understood. It opened up a door to exploring the world soldiers faced when they came home, the walking wounded, to a society that just wanted to forget and move on. Hugh seemed relevant to me even today, in a world in which those who suffer from trauma or mental illness are often misunderstood or even relegated to the background. I felt an affinity with him, though he and I are so different and I am really much more like Lady Evelyn (though I daresay she is a little more adventurous…;-) Hugh took on mannerisms in my mind, a specific way of walking, a little slouch, because he wants to go unnoticed, an unwillingness to meet one’s eye. In some ways, I feel as though he has yet to reveal certain parts to me, even as his inventor, just as he has kept much of himself private from the people he is beginning to trust. He needs time to let his story unfold, and I think, for this reason, I could not let him go and have included him in every subsequent Lady Evelyn novel.

I suspect many authors feel the same as I do when crafting characters. They come up with a name, a vague idea about who the person is or will be and then, as they begin to write, he or she becomes someone different, someone better or worse or far more complicated that first expected. We want our characters to feel real and believable and real people are complicated, real people do not fit into a box or an outline one can create. Developing characters is one of my greatest pleasures as a writer, and I hope you enjoy them all and the story presented in The Quality of Mercy!

A wonderful guest post – thank you, Malia. I am most certainly a character-driven reader myself. A good (or bad!) character can make or break a book for me!

The Quality of Mercy by Malia Zaidi was published in the UK by BookBaby on 25th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads |

The Quality of Mercy banner

about-the-author3

Version 2Malia Zaidi is the author of the Lady Evelyn Mysteries. She studied at the University of Pittsburgh and at the University of Oxford.

Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides vicariously (if temporarily) in countries around the world.

#BookReview: The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry @canongatebooks #TheWayofAllFlesh #damppebbles

the way of all flesh“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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

about-the-author3

ambrose parry.jpgAmbrose 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.

Author Links:Twitter |