January 16th, 2021 by Jane Turner
This review of The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry comes courtesy of a Blog Tour organised by Random Things. I received a free copy of the paperback. The Art of Dying was published on 7 January 2021 by Black Thorn, an imprint of Canongate Books, in paperback. Hardback and audio versions are also available.
Hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. And a 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.
Shortlisted For The 2020 McIlvanney Prize
The series has been optioned by Benedict Cumberpatch’s production company, SunnyMarch, for a Sky TV series. The Way of all Flesh was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculiar Prize for Crime Novel of the Year 2019, and the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the year.
Let’s start with the bad.
I found this one dragged a bit. It reads like a cosy mystery for the first 150 pages. The first inkling of more than one victim doesn’t appear until almost halfway through. That’s where the cosy mystery takes a darker turn and becomes more active – but I found it a bit of a trial to get there…
There were one or two characters which I think were hangovers from Book 1 in the series. Not a lot is said about them, they just appear and do their thing – trusting the reader already knows what they’re all about. Not a massive problem, they are minor characters after all, but something to note.
Then there is the good. LOTS of good. The Art of Dying has loads to to recommend it…
The language is excellent – evocative of the era, descriptive and lovely. Immediately brings you to 19th Century Edinburgh, and even includes smatterings of local slang. Perfect!
The story is intriguing and unique. Based on (and including) actual characters from history (Dr James Simpson DID in fact discover chloroform), The Art of Dying sees them in a fictional situation, expanding on historical truths.
The two main characters, Will Raven and Sarah Banks, continue their adventures from the first book in the series: The Way of All Flesh. Will and Sarah are perfectly represented here, complete with foibles, insecurities, egos, ambitions, and misapprehensions (all too common back when it was considered rude to completely speak your mind).
The tale is told through 3 points of view – Will, Sarah and the elusive killer – which works very well indeed.
The ‘classed’ society of the time is very well represented, as is the distain the upper classes held for the lower.
This can be read as a standalone. There’s enough backstory scattered through that the reader quickly picks up the underlying currents and tensions between the characters.
All in all, this one is well worth a go if you’re a fan of Chris Brookmyre, C.J. Sansom, or historical crime fiction.
A very interesting, evocative and intriguing read!
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. 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 series, which began with The Way of All Flesh, is based.
The Way of All Flesh was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year and longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.
The Art of Dying is the second book in the series.
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