The Way Of The Flesh by Ambrose Parry Canongate April 30th 2019
A vivid and gripping historical crime novel set in 19th century Edinburgh,
by bestselling author Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman
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.
- The Way of All Flesh is the first in a series of historical crime novels. It will appeal to fans of C.J. Sansom, S.J. Parris and historical crime fiction, as well of fans of Brookmyre’s own writing.
- The Way of All Flesh contains real life characters and events including:
- Dr James Simpson, pioneer of chloroform
- The invention of anaesthesia and its early use in obstetric procedures
- The influence of the newly established Free Church of Scotland
- The work of photography pioneers David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson
Medical historical crime is definitely my thing and when an author gets it right it can be utterly absorbing. In the case of Ambrose Parry and their novel The Way Of All Flesh, they most certainly did get it spot on.
With the beautiful city of Edinburgh as its backdrop they showed us a city of two halves, one of prosperity, richness and cleanliness and the less salubrious dark side. It was the dark side that I loved the most, the filth encrusted streets, the shadiness of it inhabitants and the poor insanitary and medical conditions many had to endure.
Will Raven was our unlikely hero, thrust from the darkness to the bright lights of the rich and comfortable surroundings of the wealthy. Here we had a young man eager to train as an obstetrician under the skilful eye of Dr Simpson, but a few dead bodies did a great job distracting him. Did I like Raven? At first no, I found him a bit of a rogue, a bit selfish but as the story unfolded the good guy slowly emerged, as we saw him mature and find his niche in the medical world. It was his tenacity and urge to seek justice that ultimately won me over, and maybe also his friendship with maid Sarah Fisher.
Fisher was wonderful, a woman who didn’t want to settle for marriage and children and a life as a maid. She was a woman ahead of her time, clever, driven and utterly fascinated by science. She wasn’t afraid to speak up, to experience the slums of Edinburgh, and throw herself into obvious danger. Her and Raven’s relationship was that classic blend of love and hate, that left you wanting more, that had you wondering where it would lead them.
Our other main character was that of medicine and Ambrose Parry more than excelled in their portrayal. Their recounting of the development of anaesthetic was utterly fascinating and they somehow managed to seamlessly weave it into the storyline. I think that is what made this novel so appealing, that they managed to brilliantly blend fact and fiction so effortlessly. You never realised that you were right in the middle of a history lesson!
The storylines did not make for comfortable reading and odd scenes really tested my nerve. It showed the brutally of 19th Century medicine, the utter disregard many had for the comfort of the patient and the ignorance that fell on many. It made me quite thankful for today’s modern medicine but gave me an appreciation for its pioneers and indeed the many patients who suffered in the course of medical advances.
If you can get past the brutality, The Way Of The Flesh was a compelling and thought provoking trip back in time. I am hoping that Ambrose Parry have future plans for Will Raven and Sarah Fisher as I would very like to get to know them and their relationship a little bit more .
I would like to thank Canongate for a copy of The Way Of The Flesh to read and review and to Anne Carter Of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
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, including Black Widow, winner of both the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. 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 novel was based. The Way of All Flesh is the first book in the series. @ambroseparry