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  • Writer's pictureKenneth

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Hello and welcome to today’s random tapping’s of the keyboard.

Since the sequel is being released soon, I decided to do a quick review of “The way of all flesh” by Ambrose Parry.

The way of all flesh: Edinburgh, 1847. City of Medicine, Money, Murder.

Young women are being discovered dead across the Old Town, all having suffered similarly gruesome ends. In the New Town, medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson.

Simpson's patients range from the richest to the poorest of this divided city. His house is like no other, full of visiting luminaries and daring experiments in the new medical frontier of anaesthesia. It is here that Raven meets housemaid Sarah Fisher, who recognises trouble when she sees it and takes an immediate dislike to him. She has all of his intelligence but none of his privileges, in particular his medical education.

With each having their own motive to look deeper into these deaths, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh's underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out alive.

So, first things first, I haven’t read a lot of historical crime in my life, or crime in general, started around 2 years ago and gone on a real crime bender since. But when I read that it was set in the medical profession in the late 1840s, I was sold. I do like medical history!

Anyways, so for the story we are treated to the streets of 1840s Edinburgh, where its nice to live if you are part of the upper class, for the rest not so much. We are introduced to Will Raven a young promising medical student that have gotten an apprenticeship with renowned, kind and somewhat eccentric Dr Simpson. In Dr Simpsons household we find the fiercely intelligent Sarah Fisher, she works as a housemaid and has an interest in medicine too, she also helps out in Dr Simpsons home clinic. The interactions between Will and Sarah are great, they have a believable friendship and budding romance. For Dr James Simpson, he is portrayed as a brilliant and benign obstetrician, and he is an inspiring mentor for both Raven and Fisher. When several women are found dead/dying in horrible writhing’s and spasms (one woman has a close connection to Raven) Raven and Fisher work together to solve the mystery, their teamwork is a pleasure to read! (I just feel now like I am rambling on and is just recapping the book itself, so I’m just going to stop here)

For the story itself: The pacing is great, by the end of a chapter you find yourself saying” just one more chapter”. The writing and plotting is strong (as you would expect). But where it really shines is in the descriptions and real-life horror of the medical profession of the time, where hospital visits most likely was a death sentence and giving birth was a gamble for both the mother and child. You feel like you are wandering the streets of 1840s Edinburgh whilst reading the book (or at least I did), Edinburgh is a beautiful city rich on history, don’t believe me, go there and see for yourself! I have always enjoyed myself when I been there (I sound like a bloody travel ad now)

For myself, this book is one of my favourite crime novels of the year! Later in the month I will write about the sequel “The Art of Dying” (that I have had the pleasure of reading).

If you liked this book, you should read “The Butchering Art” by Lindsey Fitzharris, this is not fiction but a medical history book about the discovery and implementation of the antiseptic system by Joseph Lister, that came about the same time as the events of “The Way of All Flesh” and happened in Edinburgh. It’s a fascinating read that shows the horrors of the medical profession of the time. There are a few references to the real-life Dr Simpsons in the book for those who are interested.

About the author: Ambrose Parry is the pseudonym for the collaboration of crime author

Chris Brookmyre and his wife Dr Marisa Haetzman (I must admit, Ambrose Parry is a pretty good pseudonym! That’s what you expect a historical crime writer to be named)

Notes on book:

Format: Paperback

Genre: Historical crime

Page number: 410

Publisher: Canongate


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