I thoroughly enjoyed The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry. The setting is Edinburgh in 1847 where Will Raven feels lucky to have secured an apprenticeship with the famous Doctor James Simpson, he has moved into the Simpson family home and his scruffy appearance doesn’t go down well, especially with the servants there. A close enounter with a money lender and his gargantuan enforcer ensured that Will looks even worse than usual. He’s so glad that he’s now living in the New Town rather than the Old Town where his assailants are more usually to be found. However he soon discovers that when accompanying Doctor Simpson on his rounds they are often in the Old Town. Will had thought that Simpson would be working mainly with the wealthy citizens of Edinburgh, but often he’s attending poor women who are having difficulties in giving birth. Simpson has been using ether to help them with their labour but he is looking for something better and safer.
Will is also searching for something – he wants to find out what happened to his friend Evie who he found dead. She was a prostitute and when he found her she had obviously suffered a violent and painful death, and it seems that she’s not the only young woman to have died like that recently.
This is a great read, I loved being back in Victorian Edinburgh. Ambrose Parry is the name which has been adopted by the author Chris Brookmyre and his wife Marisa Haetzmen who is a consultant anaesthetist and they used the research which she had done for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine as a base to weave the tale around. They’ve also nodded towards the Frenchman Ambroise Paré who was a pioneer of early surgical techniques. Apparently this is the first in a series, I’m really looking forward to the next one. The endpapers have a lovely map of Edinburgh to help those who don’t know the city to see where they are.