The Way Of All Flesh. Ambrose Parry

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Will Raven is just about to start as the new medical apprentice to the renown Dr James Simpson, but just before taking up his appointment he finds a friend dead in her bed. Twisted in death the body looks as though it is in spasm, and Will leaves without telling anybody. He has to, his friend is “just another dead whore” as he latter hears her called.

Moving into his new digs Will cannot forget his dead friend as he sets about his new job. But as more bodies are found, contorted in the same way as his fiend, it becomes obvious that somebody is killing women, but why.

Finding an unlikely ally in a young house maid, Sarah, who is fascinated by Homeopathy, and hankers for a job in medicine only open to men from privileged backgrounds, Will begins to look for who was responsible for killing the women.

Set in Edinburgh in the winter of 1847. A time when Doctors and Chemists are racing to find the ideal Anesthetic. A time when women are turning to prostitution  to make ends meet. A time when illegal back street abortions are killing too many women who have no other option.

This story is not one that races along. It is a bit of a plod at times but it is well worth plodding through it.

Ambrose Parry paints a great picture of the life and times of the upper and lower classes of Edinburgh society, and nicely places his main character Will somewhere in the middle.

He paints a time when peoples egos outpaced the science they were trying to establish.

Pages: 416

Publishers: Canongate Books

Publishing Date: 30th August

Available to pre-order on Amazon

No Cure For The Dead Christine Trent

 

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Another new name to me but by no means a new author. I looked Christine Trent up and found out she is a prolific writer of historical fiction based in the Victorian era. I should not have been surprised, No Cure For The Dead is a well written book that was both engaging and intriguing.

Set in 1853 the story’s main protagonist is the 33 year old Florence Nightingale. Before her well known exploits during the Crimean War Nightingale was the Superintendent of a Women’s Establishment for Temporary Illness. A home for women suffering all sorts of illnesses both mental, and physical; imagined and actual.

It is during her time at the Establishment that this book is set. At the end of Nightingales first week she finds a young nurse hung in the library. As convinced as the police are that this is a suicide, Nightingale is equally convinced that the nurse was murdered.

Embarking on a good old fashioned mystery, in the manor of Sherlock Holmes, Nightingale investigates the crime against the threat of one of the male Committee Members wanting her removed from her post.

 

As the investigation takes place Nightingale gets to know her small staff, and even smaller group of patients. Each has a story, and each seems to have a reason to see the unfortunate nurse dead.

 

This is a proper old school murder mystery that will keep the reader guessing up to the last couple of chapters.

 

When I read a biographical book I often find myself hearing the voice of the subject in my head as I’m reading. That was never going to be the case with this book because I have no idea what Nightingale sounded like. However, it is a testament to the writing skills of Christine Trent that there was a voice narrating this story in my head from the first to the last word. I couldn’t place it at first but then it came to me. The upper-class tones of Jenny Agutter, specifically when she is doing the opening and closing dialogue for the TV Series Call the Midwife.

 

I enjoyed this book. In fact I enjoyed it a lot.

 

Pages: 326

Publishers: Crooked Lane Books

The Devils Prayer Luke Gracias

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The Devil’s Prayer        Luke Gracias

Stephen King meets Dan Brown, with a sprinkling of C.J. Sansom, in one of the best books I’ve read this year.

What genre is it?

Horror? Psychological thriller? Historical fiction?

Mix them up and you will end up with The Devils Prayer.

The book starts with a Nun running through secret passages, between an isolated convent and a hidden tomb, in an isolated area of Spain.

A short time later the Nun kills herself in front of 1000’s of people in a public square.

Meanwhile, Siobhan, a young journalist in Australia, has not seen her mother for 6 years. A knock on the door from the local police officer brings the news she has hoped never to hear. Her Mom is dead.

Siobhan makes a trip to Spain to see her mother’s grave, and find some closure into why she disappeared. She finds out her mother was the Nun who committed suicide so publicly and uncovers a journal her mother had left hidden for her.

The journal, called The Confession, describes a sequence of events starting in the mid 1990’s; including a horrific crime and the ramifications it has on the victim and its perpetrators, and explains what Denise has been doing since she went missing.

The Confession tells the story of Denise, a successful newsreader, a single mother living with her daughter, Siobhan, and her mother Edith. Following an accident in which Siobhan nearly drowns Denise’s life begins to change.

Some years later Denise gives birth to a second daughter Jess; but between the near drowning of Siobhan and the birth of Jess things have changed drastically for Denise.

Eventually Denise begins to realise that she is central to events which she now has no control over. When she is approached by a mysterious Monk, who offers her help to find a closure and put things right, she has no choice but to leave and start a journey through libraries full of ancient scripture in an attempt to save those nearest her.

Disguised as a Nun with a vow of Silence she is taken around Europe to read and translate ancient scriptures ultimately trying to find the lost pages of an ancient book. The pages are The Devils Prayer.

 This book is beautifully written and had me hooked from the start. I read it in 2 days and was left wanting more.

Luke Gracias eases between the two main protagonists as the main story is told with Siobhan, taking the lead character, reading her mother’s Confession, with Denise being the main character.

Gracias takes the reader through; family trauma, a horrific crime, and betrayal in Australia; to historical artefacts, ancient documents, Monasteries and Convents in Europe.

As the book raced towards the end I began to find myself thinking, “there’s not enough pages left to finish this story” I was right.

What a cliff-hanger.

Mr Gracias please don’t make us wait long till the next one please.