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 protégé 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.
What I Thought:
I had thought that, given all that’s going on, I would step carefully and quietly into 2021 but my reading year started with a bang, with this gripping historical novel.
The Art of Dying is the second in a series of historical crime novels set in 1840s Edinburgh, centred around the medical profession of the time and featuring some real-life leading figures of the profession.
Although I have not read book one in this series, I was able to immediately jump into the second book – any references to the first book were explained well, so I never felt like I had missed anything, but I will definitely be picking up book one as I feel like future books in this series will be a staple of my TBR.
I love crime fiction and I also love historical fiction and this book, written by the husband and wife team of Chris Brookmyre and Dr Marisa Haetzman is an exemplary title in both genres. Setting your novel in the 1840s necessarily requires a lot of research, but the factual information in this book is seamlessly woven into the narrative without being shoe-horned in, or seeming to be research for research’s sake – it really is a bugbear of mine when authors include any and all research that they have done, regardless of whether it advances the plot. No such worries here – presumably because the series format allows factual elements to be more widely spread…
I think Sarah Banks (nee Fisher) stands out the most for me, and I am excited to see how her character develops, as this young woman who has already advanced from housemaid to a doctor’s assistant begins to widen her world and consider her future in medicine – dare she hope that she could one day call herself a doctor too? However frustrating the response of other characters to her may be, to see the first instances of women taking charge of their professional lives in the mid-19th century is something I would definitely like to read more about.
And finally, did I forget to mention that this is all set against a fiendishly clever murder plot?? Will Raven and Sarah Banks seek to clear the name of their patron, Dr Simpson, and discover the unthinkable – a female serial killer working almost unnoticed in Edinburgh. Hearing certain chapters from the killer’s point of view only adds to the big reveal!
The Art of Dying is published by Canongate Books.
To find out more about Ambrose Parry – the writing team of Chris Brookmyre and Dr Marisa Haetzman – you can connect with them on Twitter.
This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the paperback publication of The Art of Dying. For more reviews and exclusive content, check out the blogs taking part below.
Please note: I received a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.