The Art of Dying

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Pub Date 02 Mar 2021 | Archive Date 07 Jan 2021
Canongate, Black Thorn

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Description

'Parry's Victorian Edinburgh comes vividly alive - and it's a world of pain' Val McDermid
'A rip-roaring tale of murder' Ian Rankin

SHORTLISTED FOR THE McILVANNEY PRIZE 2020

Edinburgh, 1849. Hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. And a whispering campaign seeks to paint Dr James Simpson, pioneer of medical chloroform, as a murderer.

Determined to clear Simpson's name, his prot�g� Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher must plunge into Edinburgh's deadliest streets and find out who or what is behind the deaths. Soon they discover that the cause of the deaths has evaded detection purely because it is so unthinkable.

'Parry's Victorian Edinburgh comes vividly alive - and it's a world of pain' Val McDermid
'A rip-roaring tale of murder' Ian Rankin

SHORTLISTED FOR THE McILVANNEY PRIZE 2020

Edinburgh, 1849. Hordes of...


Advance Praise

'Gleeful, romping . . . The fog and stench of Edinburgh’s Old Town definitely jump off the page . . . The central relationship between loveable rogue Raven and proto-feminist Fisher is the beating heart of The Art of Dying. Both characters are drawn with real empathy and nuance, and their complicated feelings for each other drive the book as much as the smart storylines. A great piece of storytelling'
Big Issue

'Full of twists and turns – a great read'
Evening Times

'A gripping Victorian thriller'
Sunday Express

'Dark and visceral, gritty and charming, with a twisting plot and compelling characters – not least, Victorian Edinburgh at her deadliest. The immersive world of Ambrose Parry just gets better and better'
JESS KIDD

'The central characters and their relationship are the book's strengths . . . worth a read – the characters and setting are wonderful'
The Times

'A menacing tale of murder amid the medical experiments of mid-19th century Edinburgh'
iNews

'Offers more of the alluring combination of crime fiction and historical fact seen in last year’s The Way of All Flesh . . . The reader may need a tiny dose of chloroform to relax after all of these thrills. . . For any reader in need of a swift-acting tonic, I prescribe picking up this thriller as soon as possible'
Scotland on Sunday

PRAISE FOR THE WAY OF ALL FLESH

'Menacing, witty and ingeniously plotted, Ambrose Parry’s debut draws you into the dark heart of nineteenth-century Edinburgh and won’t let you go until the final page'
S.J. PARRIS

'An astonishing debut. The dark and dangerous past is brought thrillingly to life. I can’t wait to read more of Raven and Sarah'
MARK BILLINGHAM

'Utterly compelling, this tale of Old Edinburgh is so full of characters and startling incident that I never wanted it to end'
DENISE MINA

'A thoroughly entertaining tale of murder and misadventure in 1840s Edinburgh'
Sunday Times

'A dynamic new arrival . . . Ambrose Parry’s The Way of All Flesh is set in an 1840s Edinburgh where new science and old beliefs rub shoulders. Its twisty gothic plot is based on grisly real events'
NICCI FRENCH, Observer

'Gleeful, romping . . . The fog and stench of Edinburgh’s Old Town definitely jump off the page . . . The central relationship between loveable rogue Raven and proto-feminist Fisher is the beating...


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Featured Reviews

So, fun fact. You don’t need to have read the first book in order to have a clue what’s going on. Bought the book for someone else, kept meaning to ‘borrow’ it and never got round it it. This is a little cracker of a book. History fiction? Check. Set in my city of Edinburgh? Yes Ma’am. Full of murrrrrderrr? You bet’cha. Set in 1850, this is the story about chloroform, Dr Raven, a scamp of a doctor who loves getting involved with things most people would turn away from, Dr Simpson, Raven’s esteemed master who’s name and reputation is well known throughout the city, and Sarah Fisher, a woman who desires long for more that one city and societal restraint. Our story starts with the scamp returning from Berlin to take up the coveted position as Simpson’s assistant but with a slight ulterior motive; to find a new disease which will make his name famous. Little does he know that he’ll end up in the middle of an intertwined and clever murder plot. You’ll be thrown into the world throughout this book with details about Edinburgh that a lot of people local to Edinburgh won’t notice, but made a resident very happy. You’ll be intrigued about this murderous persona who pops up in their own mini chapters from time to time. You’ll love this book.

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‘There's a fine line between kill and cure.’ I adore Historical Fiction and when you piece that together with 19th century Edinburgh, it is just exquisite! I loved The Way Of All Flesh and was really excited when The Art Of Dying became available. I actually loved this even MORE than book 1! It was exciting and engaging from the start. The twists, the medical terminology, the characters, Victorian edinburgh all made this the PERFECT read. If you are a fan of historical fiction, mystery and thrillers then this is a series you will enjoy.

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The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry Having read and enjoyed The Way of All Flesh by this husband and wife team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman I was keen to read the further adventures involving Will Raven and Sarah Fisher. This novel opens in Germany with Will Raven in Germany becoming involved in yet another altercation which results in him fleeing back to Edinburgh where he takes up a post as assistant to Dr Simpson. He however finds much changed upon his return. This book once again deals with the difficult role which women had in the 1850’s: despite her skill and aptitude Sarah would be unable to train to be a doctor. There are suggestions that this may be possible in other countries such as America. This is historical crime fiction of the highest calibre and interwoven amongst the events of the novel are real people and events. Will and Sarah are again called upon to investigate a series of unexplained deaths and also to rescue the reputation of Dr Simpson. I am keen to see where this pair are led in the future and am grateful to Net Galley and the publishers for the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this. With a realistic background, characters based on real people who played significant roles in modernising medicine and two leading 'fictional' characters who blend well with the real ones, this book is going to be a popular addition to the genre. It is well written, all the characters are well drawn, have flaws and are believable. I would recommend it to anyone. With thanks to Canongate and NetGalley for an advance copy.

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This book dazzled me from the beginning. I plunged into 1850 Edinburgh so deeply that it was difficult to emerge from under the authors' spell. I didn't want to stop reading to eat dinner and dessert with my family. Even chocolate cake couldn't overcome the power of this book. I gobbled up my cake in the 21st century and rushed back to the 19th century as quickly as possible. And then I was back in Edinburgh . . . The dark streets where women didn't dare walk. The sordid slums of the poor and beautifully-decorated parlors of the wealthy. The social hierarchy that dictated who could marry whom. The scandal when a brave few threw off societal restraints and married for love. The ever-present threat of dying in childbirth. The number of children who died in infancy or early childhood. The list goes on. I felt like I was physically there. More importantly, I was emotionally present. The tumultuous emotions swirling in the atmosphere were my emotions, the characters existed in my life, and I cared about them deeply. I immediately liked both Sarah Fisher Banks and Will Raven. (He's usually called Raven in the book). Sarah is smart, eager to learn about medicine, and chaffs under the social dictates for her gender. Though she and Will were romantically involved in the previous book, he refused to marry someone beneath his social class and fled to Europe to study medicine. In the meantime, she married Archie Banks, a doctor with quite egalitarian views who encourages her to study medicine. When Dr Simpson's reputation is smeared, Raven and Sarah butt heads over the proper response. She wants to investigate; he wants to stay out of it. I enjoyed watching the two spar over this and other issues. Even when they team up, the two don't always work well together. Both have secrets. Both are stubborn and have huge blind spots. And Sarah's marriage puts a barrier between them. When they need to be in agreement, too often they miss clues because they interpret them in different ways. This gives their unseen enemy an advantage, an advantage that the killer will exploit . . . At points, the killer narrates from a first person point of view. Though it soon becomes obvious who this woman is, I didn't work out how all of the elements fit together until the climax. Her voice commanded my attention. She demanded that I see her impoverished childhood, abused teenage years, the way she became who she was, even when I wanted to look away. The Art of Dying is a beautifully-written historical mystery. The book captivated me, sweeping me away with its masterful prose, deep characters, and tight control of the plot. I thoroughly enjoyed it! An enthusiastic 5 stars. (Thanks to Netgalley and BlackThorn press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.) Note: this review will be posted on my blog on March 1, 2021.

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As I’m interested in the history of medicine this is a book that appeals. ✔️ Set in Edinburgh? Another ✔️. Featuring Dr James Simpson of chloroform fame? ✔️ Brilliant characters in the aforementioned Simpson, Dr Will Raven and Sarah Fisher? ✔️ An intriguing mystery? ✔️ I could go on!! Will returns to Edinburgh after studying in various places in Europe and adding to his medical knowledge. He is now Simpson’s assistant. To his dismay Sarah is now married to the immensely likeable Dr Archie Banks. Simpson finds himself at the centre of controversy over the death of Mrs Johnstone with other doctors accusing him of causing her death ( this is based on fact) meanwhile a monster masquerading as an angel in hour of need is adding to her death tally. The story is told from various perspectives intriguingly interspersed with the killers thoughts. This is a really well written book which uses language appropriate to the century and is compulsive and gripping reading. There is so much to admire in this book, the characters are masterfully crafted and spring of the page. There’s Simpson so full of life, energy and coiled like a spring. Will is very interesting with his inner turmoil and brawling, he ably defends himself with his Liston knife (Robert Liston, the high speed surgeon, check out his operation with 300% mortality rate!) and clever Sarah with her ambition to be a doctor. Other characters are equally colourful though some of very dubious intent. The chloroform debate is very interesting and it is central to a lot in this story which is full of twists and unexpected turns with key characters at risk. I also like the feminist aspect of the book too which is evident through Sarah who is encouraged both by Archie and patient Mrs Glassford. Female trail blazers in medicine and in literature inspire Sarah however, the accepted 19th attitude to women is firmly expressed by one unlikable female character. Overall, I love this book which kept my interest from start to finish. This is a fascinating book that I will certainly remember and I’m very keen to find out where life takes Sarah and Will in the future. Highly recommended.

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This is a powerful, well-researched book, and a sequel to The Ways of All Flesh. On the surface, it is a gripping, historical medical mystery, but it is much more than that. Set in Edinburgh, 1850, it details medical practices of that time and is based on some real-life historical characters. This atmospheric story highlights the squalid, unhygienic, dangerous lot of the poor, high infant mortality, infectious diseases, and inept policing procedures in a Victorian-era city teeming with criminality. Conservative medical practices, jealousies and rivalries among ambitious doctors, their reluctance to accept innovative new practices and denial that deadly germs could be spread due to lack of sanitation prevailed. What stood out for me was social restrictions imposed on women and the lack of feminist advocates. This works well as a standalone novel, but reading the first gives one a deeper understanding of recurring characters. Sarah had worked as a housemaid, but her keen intelligence, observations, and her study of medical texts while serving in the home of a prominent doctor, made this independent woman a valued assistant to her employer, Dr. James Simpson, renowned for his discovery of chloroform to alleviate pain during surgery. Even Sarah’s competent role as a medical assistant was frowned upon by society including other doctors and most patients. A woman doctor would not only be unacceptable but also unthinkable. Will Raven had been apprenticed to Dr. Simpson. He had formed romantic feelings towards Sarah, but in his arrogance rejected marriage to her, feeling that she was below his social status, and such a marriage would impede his ambition to become a successful doctor. Dr. Will Raven has now completed his medical requirements and has been expanding his knowledge by travelling to centres in Europe for a year, gaining insight from physicians and medical lecturers in cities he visited. Although he rejected marriage with Sarah, he still has feelings for her and is anxious to resume their relationship. He is anticipating a position as a doctor with his mentor, Dr. Simpson on his return to Edinburgh. To his chagrin, he learns that Sarah is now Dr. Simpson’s trusted assistant, but that she married during his absence. He is stunned to discover that her new husband is not only a doctor but a man who encourages his wife’s career in the medical field. Dr. Simpson, having made a name for himself for his discovery of chloroform, is now having his reputation tarnished. He is finding himself unjustly accused of malpractice, causing the death of another doctor’s wife following surgery he performed. Sarah approaches Dr. Will Raven for help in restoring Dr. Simpson’s good reputation. Will is reluctant to work with Sarah in any capacity, being heartsick and jealous of her position as a doctor’s wife and her ongoing work as a medical assistant. Later, he relents, and they try to get to the cause of the rumours and put an end to them. Meanwhile, there is a mysterious new illness that no one can diagnose and cure. It affects entire families killing all those afflicted over a period of time. Will regards this as an opportunity for fame and fortune. He hopes to find a cause and cure for this communicable new epidemic which he thinks will carry his name. Sarah suspects that a cunning serial killer is behind these deaths, arguing with Will that it is not a disease. Will finally realizes that the more vigilant Sarah is correct and that they now have a difficult, relentless task of solving this crime. Will takes a major step in his personal outlook as his arrogance diminishes. As their relationship develops, I expected a different ending after all the twists and revelations. I was surprised and gratified by the next step in Sarah’s heroic story. I am anticipating a sequel focusing on the same main characters. Thanks to NetGalley and Blackthorn Books for this impressive novel in return for an honest review. Highly recommended.

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Thank you NetGalley and Canongate for the eARC. Edinburgh 1950. Will Raven has returned to the city after a year-long trip through major cities in Europe, increasing his medical experience and is now a qualified medic. He's working as an assistant to Dr. Simpson, the renowned physician who discovered chloroform. To his dismay, Sarah Fisher, the housemaid he became close with, is no longer a housemaid and has also married ... and her husband is a doctor! After deciding nothing could come of their relationship due to her lowly status, he's shocked not only at that, but also how much it hurts him. Mysterious deaths are occurring all over the city and Raven believes he may have found a new disease, something that could make his name in medical history. Sarah, however, believes something much more evil is going on and soon the two off them are on the hunt for a stone cold killer. The story is terrific. The atmosphere of Edinburgh in those days, society's strict rules for women, the medical practices, as well as the fact that several of the characters were actually real people (even the killer!) make for an absorbing read. Great research; and even though I hadn't read the first in the series, it works well as a standalone. Highly recommended.

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The first book in this series is The Way of All Flesh and it got almost 4.000 ratings on Goodreads alone. I read and reviewed the book in October 2018 and I just loved it. Book two takes us back to Edinburgh – of course, because all three main characters return in this story. Will Raven travelled through Europe to learn from the best doctors at the best universities. When Dr Simpson offers him the position of assistant however, he is very keen to accept. The first disappointment for him is that Sarah is no longer the clever and lovable house maid. She has a whole other position now and Will realizes that maybe not asking her to marry him earlier was a mistake. The second disappointment is that Will, although he’s learned a lot, is still treated as a mere assistant by Dr Simpson, who goes on treating patients the way he always did. Only now, chloroform seems to play a bigger role in every treatment. It doesn’t take long before Will and Sarah have to set out together again to find out why whole families are dying. Sarah is hindered by the fact she’s a woman – although she’s learned that in America, there are already female doctors, in Scotland she can be never more than a nurse. Nothing wrong with being a nurse, but she aims higher. Will is hindered by the fact that he, too, sometimes attributes Sarah’s findings to her being a woman, not to clever thinking. Apart from the fact that this book is an interesting mystery, has brilliant characters and deals with ‘modern’ medicine, it is the writing style that I like the most. So flowing, so beautiful, so attractive. I had to look up some words so it’s educational too. Next to that, we learn a lot about society during the mid-nineteenth century. At one point, there is a remark regarding women taking their husbands’ last names. Apparently this was not always the case. I’m curious as to why this changed in later years, so that there are still countries now where a married woman has to give up her own identity and cannot be found anymore under her birth name. It’s a small thing but I like discovering small bits of information like this in a book, especially in historical fiction. There is a lot going on in this story but we also see the characters developing even more than they did in the first book. I sincerely hope to read the third book in this series soon. Thanks to Netgalley for this digital review copy.

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I realised that I had read this book before. My review is belo. This is a really good sequel. I also think it would work well as a standalone. There is plenty of action set in beautiful Edinburgh. It is a great account of how medicine was practiced in the 1800s. I hope there are more books to come. Raven and Sarah are interesting characters to read about. Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.

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A perfect sequel to the excellent 'The Way of All Flesh', this book reunites Will Raven and Sarah Fisher, the aspirant doctor and the maid who is far more knowledgeable than her station suggests. The characters are well drawn out and the story whips along at speed. The streets of Edinburgh are so well described you can smell the fog on the air! The authors build real-life personalities into the story and supplement them with their own rogue's gallery to form a cast of fascinating characters. If I have a complaint, it's that the book describes too much of the previous volume when a short synopsis would suffice, but otherwise it's a very enjoyable way to spend a wintry day, I'd prescribe pairing with good tea and biscuits at regular intervals!

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I really enjoyed this book and finished in a weekend the mystery was fascinating and the characters were wonderful I can't wait to read more.

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Medicine, madness and murder. I liked these ingredients in an excellent crime thriller set in the murky, but also well heeled, streets of Edinburgh in 1849. Returning from Germany after a tour to improve his medical experience Will Raven (not averse to a bit of violence himself) settles back with Dr James Simpson in his medical practise. Simpson is now a leading pioneer of chloroform but certain voices in the city are raising doubts about his professionalism. When patients start dying across the city, seemingly after medical intervention, Simpson is put on ethical trial by his colleagues. But the reunion of Will Raven with former servant Sarah Fisher, now assisting Simpson and gaining in medical expertise herself, combine to make a likeable duo who try to work out who the real killer is. Based on the real life tale of Jane Toppan in America, who was known as 'Jolly Jane' and worked as a nurse, the beginnings of scientific discoveries in medicine lie against the fear that taking away pain at the end of life may have led to people being killed without consent. Topical. The simmering romance between Will and Sarah (now married) cause happiness and then despair. This is obviously one of a series and immensely entertaining. Great darkness of atmosphere and for those (like me) with an interest in the historical context of medicine as it developed in the 19th century lots to learn too. Thoroughly good.

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The Art of Dying. Luckily, this is a stand alone novel, I didn’t get approved for the first book, but hey, no hard feelings!! This is a fascinating and brilliant mix of medicine and social values, set in Edinburgh in 1850. We see the poverty and hardships of just existing in poor areas, the dangers of dying in childbirth, and all those children, who never made it past their fifth birthday. Medicine and the art of being a physician is restricted to men, even in the field of obstetrics, women are not allowed. Will Raven is such a person, and after gaining medical experience in London, Paris, Vienna, Leipzig, he has been tempted back to Edinburgh to become an assistant to Professor Simpson, who is experimenting with chloroform in both surgery and childbirth. Raven becomes reacquainted with Sarah Fisher, they had a previous relationship, but that ended as she was not his social equal. Sarah is now married to a doctor, and he is supportive of her ambitions to become a doctor, although society decrees this is a wholly unsuitable occupation for a female. Sarah has to be content as being an assistant to both Raven and Dr Simpson, whilst not being acknowledged as such. This being Edinburgh, there are a series of unexplained deaths in the city, the symptoms include delirium, dilated pupils and being in an un rousable state, it transpires that opioids could be responsible for this, and a serial killer is on the loose. Raven and Sarah must work together to prevent further tragedies. As a nurse, I loved the wealth of medical detail and the research that went into this novel. How we take chloroform for granted today, plus the difference it made in surgical procedures, that cannot be underestimated. I loved the complex harmonies between Raven and Sarah, Raven is curious, well meaning and is devoted to exploring the new opportunities that are happening in medicine, Sarah is a strong and frustrated female, who sees her sex denying her an opportunity to do a worthwhile job. There was a brief discussion of McNaughton’s Rule in relation to guilt. It was touched upon briefly in the book, then my Policeman husband expanded upon this for a good 20 minutes, another fascinating aspect, this novel has a steep learning curve. This work is likeable in both story and location. It is an intriguing murder mystery that challenges perceptions. I loved the blood and guts that added colour and knowledge to this story. I give this a five star rating, and will try and read the first book. I know there will be others in this series, and I look forward to reading them. This is my honest review, thank you for my ARC. I will post to Goodreads and Amazon when pages are open.

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After a shooting in an alleyway and his friend was shot, Will Raven fears he's done nothing with his life and wishes to return to Edinburgh to find himself. He goes back to his former employer Dr Simpson, the Dr who pioneered chloroform and his housemaid Sarah. After quite a few deaths the blame is pointed at Dr Simpson. Will and Sarah need to clear his name. I enjoyed this book and I was soon drawn into the world of Will and Sarah. It turns into quite the page turner as they delve into the darker side of life. This is a powerful, thrilling, historical fiction. I loved how the plot came together. Brilliantly written and well researched.

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*Many thanks to Ambrose Parry, Canongate, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.* I looked forward to reading this second offering by Ambrose Perry, and my waitng patiently was rewarded. Edinburgh in 1850 witnesses mysterious deaths of patients with similar symptoms, and Will Raven, after his return from Germany, hopes to identify an unknown disease that may make him famous. Sarah Fisher, now married to a doctor, still hopes to become a member of the medical profession and is supported by her husband. Will's and Sarah's paths cross, and together they manage to identify the silent murderer. Ambrose Parry wrote another more than solid historical fiction, with a plot full of twists and turns, and again he managed to describe the dark atmosphere of Edinburgh and the world of the medicine in the mid-19th Scotland. I liked Sarah's independent spirit and her aspirations to become a doctor one day. I suppose Book 2 may be read as a standalone, however, reading the previous instalment might provide more insight into Will's and Sarah's relationship.

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Raven, Fisher and Simpson 2 edinburgh 1850: despite being at the firefront of modern medicine, hundreds of patients are dyind all over the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But its not just the deaths that dismay Dr James Simpson - a whispering campagin seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circunstances. Simpsons pretege Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher are determined to clear their patrons name. i have not read the first book in this series, The Way Of All Flesh but i will have to rectify that soon. Many of the chaaracters in this book actually existed. Fact and fiction are blnded together seamlessly making an informative read. the descriptions of the prostitutes, criminals and desperately poor people give an insight tohow people lived in Scotlands capital city. Will and Sarah are great characters, they are not without their faults and this makes them more believable. The amount of medical knowledge and the history of Dr Simpson shows that the book has been well researched. I would like to thank NetGalley, Cannongate and the author Ambrose Perry for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I really like this series and am really hoping there will be more books, especially after the way this one ended - I really need to know more about Will Raven, Sarah Fisher and Dr. Simpson. They are an intriguing bunch. This is a much darker book than the first one [with Will again finding himself in a precarious position while in Berlin with his friend Henry] and there are moments where I had to stop and take a breath as it was so dark and rather filled with despair. Life in 1850 Edinburgh was not easy, not even if you were a Doctor in good standing and that is shown over and over in this story. And there are so many things that aren't as they seem that you often will feel like your head is just swimming trying to figure it all out. And a slight warning - there are moments of real grossness in this book [as with the last one as well]. 1850 Edinburgh was not clean and neither was doctoring. This was just on the cusp of Lister and disinfectant and the washing of ones hands with carbolic acid to cleanse them [and prevent the transfer of "stuff"] and there is much talk about that and putrefaction and other lovely thing. I am personally not grossed out by such talk typically, but there were absolutely moments where I said out loud "I could have gone my WHOLE life without knowing that". I cannot really go into the story too much here because this is a true mystery. You are meant to try and figure out what is going on. The narration was lovely because it was three narrators so you know there is a third party that is trying to mess things up, and all three narrators do an excellent job of depicting life in that time. It is absolutely a story that you need to read with little information; figuring it all out is half the fun. It is an excellent read and I am so glad I came across these books. Thank you to NetGalley, Ambrose Parry, and Canongate/Black Thorn for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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This was a random find on Netgalley and so grateful to have been given permission to read it. I had never come across the first book and didn't realise this was the second in a series but I loved it so much I went and got the first one. What a totally absorbing and intriguing book. Edinburgh in the Victorian era; the beginnings of 'modern' medicine; excellent research; at times dark yet quirky; two excellent young protagonists and a mystery, what more could I want? While this is the second book it easily reads as a stand alone with enough back story to explain the characters' histories without giving too much away. If you love your UK based historical mysteries you can't go past this one.

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