Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry, the pseudonym of bestselling author, Chris Brookmyre, and consultant anaesthetist, Dr Marisa Haetzman.
The Way of All Flesh is the first in a series of historical crime novels. It has already been optioned by SunnyMarch for film/TV and has sold into seven territories to date. Raven and Fisher will return in The Art of Dying, due to be published in hardback in August 2019.
My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Canongate for my review copy. You can read my review below.
About the Book
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.
Format: Paperback, ebook, audiobook (416 pp.) Publisher: Canongate
Published: 2nd May 2019 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime
Find The Way of All Flesh on Goodreads
The Way of All Flesh introduces the reader to Will Raven, about to start a prestigious medical apprenticeship but burdened by secrets in his past, an unhealthily close connection to a murder victim, ruthless debt collectors on his trail and a self-confessed dark side to his character.
Despite Raven’s initial determination that the death of a woman he was close to should not become just another unsolved murder of a ‘fallen woman’, readers need to exercise some patience for his investigation into the murder to get fully under way. Not, in fact, until other similar victims start to turn up. It’s some time as well before the initial antagonism between Sarah, housemaid to the Simpson household,and Raven gives way to an uneasy investigative partnership which Sarah is determined should be one of equals. “You will keep nothing from me, and in this endeavour, you will at all times treat me as your equal.”
The authors have created an interesting character in Sarah. Intelligent, independent-minded and keen to better herself, she nevertheless finds her ambitions thwarted by social conventions and preconceptions based on her gender. A theme of the book which the reader will find difficult to miss is the inferior status of women, at all levels of society, and the potential for their mistreatment by men. As Sarah observes, “…it wasn’t only women below stairs who would never be permitted to realise their potential. Those above could aspire to no more than marriage and motherhood.” The latter is exemplified by Mina, unmarried sister-in-law of Dr. Simpson, who finds herself dependent on others for financial support and valueless without the status of wife. And, of course, there’s Sarah who, despite her intelligence and self-acquired knowledge of medicines, finds even the role of druggist’s assistant out of reach because she’s a woman and for customers ‘only a man will do.’
Alongside the crime mystery element, the book conjures up the atmosphere of 19th century Edinburgh, both its gentrified streets and seedy alleyways. It also brings to life a time of medical and scientific experimentation in the search for developments in anaesthesia and surgical techniques. The monetary and reputational rewards for pioneers of such developments may be great and, as becomes clear, not all possess the scruples of others. They may go to any lengths, seeing their actions as ‘a necessary sacrifice on the altar of progress’.
As a historical crime mystery, the book is more of a slow burn than a raging conflagration but the pace does pick up markedly in the final chapters. Making forays into subjects such as photography and homeopathy, it’s nevertheless full of atmosphere and, in Raven and Sarah, introduces an engaging central partnership, that sets things up nicely for future books.
I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Canongate Books, and NetGalley.
In three words: Atmospheric, detailed, mystery
Try something similar…The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh (read my review here)
About the Authors
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
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