A gripping historical novel of medicine & murder from bestselling author Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman, set in nineteenth-century Edinburgh
Edinburgh, 1849. 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.
- Contains real life characters and events, based on Marisa Haetzman’s research, including:
- Dr James Simpson, pioneer of chloroform
- An antagonist inspired by 19th-century nurse and ‘Angel of Death’ Jane Toppan
- The controversy surrounding chloroform’s introduction to obstetrics practices
- The growth of the women’s movement, which led to the formation of the
Edinburgh Seven: the first women to enrol in university in the UK
I love a book that has been thoroughly researched and The Art of Dying is certainly that. I know I would never have the patience. There will be many readers who have knowledge of Victorian medicine so it is important to get it right if you don’t want to be called out.
Dr Will Raven and Sarah Fisher are great protagonists and I love them both. At this stage I need to admit that I never read the first book – in fact I didn’t initially realise this was the second book in the series – so I didn’t know that they had history. Will is in love with Sarah but for various reasons which I will not divulge, he ran away to Europe, coming back to find that she had married Dr Archie Banks, who had no such reservations as Will. I love Archie, probably even more than Will.
But as this is a crime novel, the main plot is not their on-off romance but something far more sinister. People are dying at an enormous rate – whole families sometimes – and no-one knows what ails them. Illness appears to be sudden and death comes quickly. There appears to be no precedent for this disease. And is it just coincidence that the same nurse is the one hired to look after the victims?
As well as reading what happens in the third person, we also get glimpses into a first person narrative told from the point of view of an unknown woman. One who tells us that she is never a suspect because no-one expects a woman to be capable of such atrocities.
I absolutely loved this book. I’m not always the greatest fan of historical fiction, preferring more contemporary fodder, but this was just brilliant. My brother is into the history of medicine and I can see the fascination after reading this.
Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours.
About the Author
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.