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Set in Edinburgh in the 1840s, Ambrose Parry’s excellent The Way of All Flesh is an utter joy. From the very first line, we are immersed in the Victorian world of Will Raven, a struggling medical student, newly apprenticed to the eminent Scottish obstetrician Dr James Young Simpson. As the city is beset by a string of brutal murders, Raven and Sarah Fisher, Simpson’s extremely bright young housemaid, join forces to uncover the identity of the perpetrator of these ghastly crimes, and by doing so put themselves in danger.

Parry – the pseudonym of award-winning writer Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman – brings mid-nineteenth-century Edinburgh to life in vivid technicolour. We walk its streets with the characters, breathe in the intoxicating stench of the Old Town’s underworld and are entertained, and occasionally shocked, by Raven’s wit, humour and seemingly cavalier attitude towards brutal events.

Packed with detail, The Way of All Flesh mixes fact with fiction. Real-life people, such as Simpson, important in popularising chloroform as an anaesthetic, interact effortlessly with Parry’s invented characters in a city at the forefront of medical and scientific innovation. The level of research shines through and is used with a deftness of hand to create an authentic, rather mesmerising world.

This is simply historical crime-fiction at its best. And it can’t really be that much of a surprise that the book has been optioned for the big screen by SunnyMarch, Benedict Cumberbatch and Adam Ackland’s production company.

Roll on the next Raven–Fisher adventure. We can’t wait.

 

 

The Way of All Flesh | Ambrose Parry | Canongate | 2 May 2019 | paperback/ebook/audio | £8.99/£7.19/£17.99

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour arranged by Anne Cater of Random Things Tours. Many thanks also to the publisher for supplying a review copy. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.

 

Also of interest: Fallen Angel – aka where’s Niamh Temple?‘; ‘Call Me Star Girl’;Falling from the Floating World’; ‘Blood Orange’; Beton Rouge’; ‘Gallowstree Lane‘; The Lost Man‘; ‘Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdad’s Sing’; ‘The Story Keeper, Anna Mazzola’s Gothic novel‘; ‘Midland‘; ‘A Greater God‘; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘We should all be feminists’; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beautiful words – The Language of Secrets’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”’; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.