Author: Ambrose Perry
Publishing date: 19th August 2021 by Cannongate Books
Category: Historical, Medical, Thriller, Book Review
Dr Will Raven is a man seldom shocked by human remains, but even he is disturbed by the contents of a package washed up at the Port of Leith. Stranger still, a man Raven has long detested is pleading for his help to escape the hangman.
Back in the townhouse of Dr James Simpson, Sarah Fisher has set her sights on learning to practise medicine. Almost everyone seems intent on dissuading her from this ambition, but when word reaches her that a woman has recently obtained a medical degree despite her gender, Sarah decides to seek her out.
Raven’s efforts to prove his former adversary’s innocence are failing and he desperately needs Sarah’s help. Putting their feelings for one another aside, their investigations take them to both extremes of Edinburgh’s social divide, where they discover that wealth and status cannot alter a fate written in the blood.
A Corruption Of Blood is the third outing in the excellent historical series featuring Dr Will Raven, Sarah Fisher and Dr James Simpson, who was a distinguished obstetrician in 19th century Edinburgh, a real historical figure who began introducing the use of ether for difficulties in childbirth, and later discovered the anaesthetic qualities of chloroform. A compassionate doctor, he often treated the poor pro bono and with as much care as the rich, and sought to make childbirth a much less dangerous experience.
Sarah left Edinburgh with Mina, Mrs Simpson’s sister, to travel to Paris in the hopes of meeting Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to achieve a medical degree. Although Sarah assisted Dr Simpson, her burning ambition is to become a doctor in her own right despite the profession being male dominated and not considered suitable for women. The trip left Sarah disillusioned and discouraged, the advice she was hoping for unforthcoming and her objective seeming even less likely. On her return to Edinburgh another blow awaited her.
Meanwhile Raven witnesses the discovery of a tragic and gruesome package fished out of the ocean. An old adversery needs his help. He has also found the woman he wants to marry.
Raven had surprised himself with the strength of his feelings for her, feelings that for a time he had suppressed because he did not think their match would meet with approval. Of late, however, he had resolved to overcome whatever obstacles might lie in his path and allowed himself to truly contemplate the prospect of marriage.
Raven finds himself involved in two separate cases. As he becomes interested in the investigation being conducted by Inspector McLevy into the package washed up by the ocean, it becomes obvious this was no isolated incident and the full extent and horror is slowly uncovered. Then the wealthy and influential Sir Ainsley Douglas is murdered. A former adversary of Raven’s is the accused, and regardless of the fact Gideon scorned Raven when they were students he’s not averse to accepting his help.
Despite the fact that Raven is engaged, there is still a strong chemistry between him and Sarah, which is evident as they join forces in the investigations, combining their knowledge and leading them down dangerous paths. Skilfully plotted, atmospheric and suspenseful, with certain aspects sensitvely handled, A Corruption Of Blood is a well written and very entertaining read.
This series is a wonderful blend of fact and fiction, a combination that adds a realistic edge. It’s very easy to imagine life in Victorian Edinburgh, with the deep divide between the classes from one part of town to the other, the vivid and evocative historical details, social injustices of the time, medical practices and opinions, the frustration with inequalities, particularly for women. Another all round compelling read.
Thanks to Cannongate Books and NetGalley
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Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for a collaboration between Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. The couple are married and live in Glasgow.
Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels, including Black Widow, winner of both the Theakston’s 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 The Way of All Flesh was based.