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Monday 15 November 2021

‘A Corruption of Blood’ by Ambrose Parry

Published by Canongate,
19 August 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-78689-985-9 (HB)

Edinburgh, 1850, and Dr Will Raven, assistant to the famous Dr Simpson who pioneered the use of chloroform, is returning from a maternity case when he stops to examine a parcel pulled out of the river Leith: a murdered baby ...

This fast-moving historical whodunnit is told in alternate third person chapters focusing on the two main characters: Raven, and Professor Simpson’s other assistant, Sarah Fisher. Raven is clever and analytical, yet impulsive in love matters, and he’s still haunted by memories of his violent father. Sarah is empathetic, intuitive and ambitious to become a doctor herself – part of her story is her recent visit to meet Scotland’s first female doctor. Simpson is also a great character, moving between charity work for the poor and visits to the titled and wealthy – including the main murder victim. The plot rattles along at speed. There are unexpected twists and a sleight-of-hand solution, atmospheric descriptions of old Edinburgh and fascinating information about early Victorian medicine. This is the third in the series, and it’s not quite a stand-alone, with references to previous plots and the developing relationships of the characters. It’s a cracker, so if you like the sound of it, I’d suggest starting with the earlier ones in the series, The Way of all Flesh and The Art of Dying.

A great historical murder novel, with a clever plot, engaging characters and a beautifully evoked Victorian Edinburgh setting. The author, Ambrose Parry, is the pseudonom of Chris Brookmyre and his wife, Dr Marisa Haetzmann, and the series was inspired by the gory details of early medicine that Haetzmann discovered while studying for her History of Medicine degree. It lacks Brookmyre’s characteristic deadpan humour, but his pacy storytelling skills are there in spades. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

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 twenty-one novels, including Black Widow, winner of both the Theakstons 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 this novel was based.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

Click on the title to read a review of her recent book
The Shetland Sea Murders

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