Historical Fiction Thriller

The Art of Dying – Ambrose Parry

1 May 2020
The Art of Dying Book Cover The Art of Dying
Raven, Fisher, and Simpson #2
Ambrose Parry
Black Thorn
July 2, 2020

'Parry's Victorian Edinburgh comes vividly alive - and it's a world of pain' Val McDermid'A rip-roaring tale of murder' Ian RankinEdinburgh, 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.

As I’m interested in the history of medicine this is a book that appeals. ✔️ Set in Edinburgh? Another ✔️. Featuring Dr James Simpson of chloroform fame? ✔️ Brilliant characters in the aforementioned Simpson, Dr Will Raven and Sarah Fisher? ✔️ An intriguing mystery? ✔️ I could go on!! Will returns to Edinburgh after studying in various places in Europe and adding to his medical knowledge. He is now Simpson’s assistant. To his dismay Sarah is now married to the immensely likeable Dr Archie Banks. Simpson finds himself at the centre of controversy over the death of Mrs Johnstone with other doctors accusing him of causing her death ( this is based on fact) meanwhile a monster masquerading as an angel in hour of need is adding to her death tally. The story is told from various perspectives intriguingly interspersed with the killers thoughts. This is a really well written book which uses language appropriate to the century and is compulsive and gripping reading.

There is so much to admire in this book, the characters are masterfully crafted and spring of the page. There’s Simpson so full of life, energy and coiled like a spring. Will is very interesting with his inner turmoil and brawling, he ably defends himself with his Liston knife (Robert Liston, the high speed surgeon, check out his operation with 300% mortality rate!) and clever Sarah with her ambition to be a doctor. Other characters are equally colourful though some of very dubious intent. The chloroform debate is very interesting and it is central to a lot in this story which is full of twists and unexpected turns with key characters at risk. I also like the feminist aspect of the book too which is evident through Sarah who is encouraged both by Archie and patient Mrs Glassford. Female trail blazers in medicine and in literature inspire Sarah however, the accepted 19th attitude to women is firmly expressed by one unlikable female character.

Overall, I love this book which kept my interest from start to finish. This is a fascinating book that I will certainly remember and I’m very keen to find out where life takes Sarah and Will in the future. Highly recommended.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley peter@thereadingdesk.com

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