Anne Bonny Top 5 #TravelWithBooks pick from the TBR pile @natashasolomons @thesailorsgirl @brazil_thriller @C_E_Lawrence @DominickGDonald @WindmillBooks @HarperCollinsUK @unbounders @amazonpublishing @HodderBooks

house of gold - Vienna
House Of Gold by Natasha Solomons ~ Location = Vienna
Available in HB/Ebook/PB
Synopsis ~

The start of a war. The end of a dynasty.

VIENNA, 1911. Greta Goldbaum has always dreamed of being free to choose her own life’s path, but the Goldbaum family, one of the wealthiest in the world, has different expectations. United across Europe, Goldbaum men are bankers, while Goldbaum women marry Goldbaum men to produce Goldbaum children.

So when Greta is sent to England to marry Albert, a distant cousin she has never met, the two form an instant dislike for one another. Defiant and lonely, Greta longs for a connection and a place to call her own. When Albert’s mother gives Greta a garden, things begin to change.

But just as she begins to taste an unexpected happiness, the Great War breaks out, threatening to tear everything away. For the first time in two hundred years, the family will find themselves on opposing sides. How will Greta choose between the family she’s created and the one she was forced to leave behind?

Black mamba boy - Africa
Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed ~ Location = Africa 
Available in PB/Ebook
Synopsis ~

Named as one of the GRANTA BEST OF YOUNG BRITISH NOVELISTS 2013.

For fans of Half of a Yellow Sun, a stunning novel set in 1930s Somalia spanning a decade of war and upheaval, all seen through the eyes of a small boy alone in the world.

Aden,1935; a city vibrant, alive, and full of hidden dangers. And home to Jama, a ten year-old boy. But then his mother dies unexpectedly and he finds himself alone in the world.

Jama is forced home to his native Somalia, the land of his nomadic ancestors. War is on the horizon and the fascist Italian forces who control parts of east Africa are preparing for battle. Yet Jama cannot rest until he discovers whether his father, who has been absent from his life since he was a baby, is alive somewhere.

And so begins an epic journey which will take Jama north through Djibouti, war-torn Eritrea and Sudan, to Egypt. And from there, aboard a ship transporting Jewish refugees just released from German concentration camp, across the seas to Britain and freedom.

This story of one boy’s long walk to freedom is also the story of how the Second World War affected Africa and its people; a story of displacement and family.

the burning hill - Brazil
The Burning Hill by A.D Flint ~ Location = Brazil
Available in PB/Ebook
Synopsis ~

On the run from unjust court-martial back home, a young British soldier gets robbed and shot on Copacabana Beach. The bullet in Jake’s head should have been fatal, but miraculously, it saves him from a previously undetected condition that soon would have killed him.

Jake doesn’t believe in fate, nor does he feel he owes anything to anybody, but he does hate injustice. Vilson, the teenage favela kid who fired the bullet, is a victim of injustice, in a corner with a corrupt cop and a sadistic drug-lord after his blood.

With a turf war erupting in Vilson’s favela, fear stalks every narrow alleyway, and anyone dragged up to the notorious Burning Hill had better hope they’re dead before they get there. But it’s not just fear that shapes life in the favela, belief is also powerful, able to both save and destroy.

The Burning Hill is about the power of belief and one man’s desire for justice at any cost.

Edinburgh twilight - Scotland
Edinburgh Twilight by Carole Lawrence ~ Location = Scotland
Available in PB/Ebook/Audible & on Kindle Unlimited
Synopsis ~

As a new century approaches, Edinburgh is a city divided. The wealthy residents of New Town live in comfort, while Old Town’s cobblestone streets are clotted with criminals, prostitution, and poverty.

Detective Inspector Ian Hamilton is no stranger to Edinburgh’s darkest crimes. Scarred by the mysterious fire that killed his parents, he faces his toughest case yet when a young man is found strangled in Holyrood Park.

With little evidence aside from a strange playing card found on the body, Hamilton engages the help of his aunt, a gifted photographer, and George Pearson, a librarian with a shared interest in the criminal mind. But the body count is rising. As newspapers spin tales of the “Holyrood Strangler,” panic sets in across the city. And with each victim, the murderer is getting closer to Hamilton, the one man who dares to stop him.

breathe - London
Breathe by Dominick Donald ~ Location =London
Available in HB/Ebook/Audible/PB
Synopsis ~

A stunning debut crime novel for fans of Robert Harris, Philip Kerr and C.J. Sansom’s Dominion.

London, 1952. Dick Bourton is not like the other probationer policemen in Notting Hill. He’s older, having fought in Europe and then Korea. And he’s no Londoner, being from Cotswold farming stock. Then there’s Anna, the exotically beautiful White Russian fiancée he has brought back to these drab streets and empty bombsites. She may as well come from a different planet.

The new copper also has a mind of his own. After an older colleague is shot by a small-time gangster they are chasing in a pea-souper fog, something nags at Bourton’s memory. He begins to make connections which his superiors don’t want to see, linking a whole series of deaths and the fogs that stop the city in its tracks.

Desperate to prove himself and his theories, Bourton fails to notice the fear which his mysterious bride is doing her best to conceal – and overcome.

Soon both Anna and Bourton are taking dangerous paths into the worst fog London has ever known…

Anne Bonny Top 5 #Victorian Era #Historical Picks from the TBR pile @JessKiddHerself @storyjoy @claireevans113 @paraicodonnell @And_Hughes @canongatebooks @BloomsburyRaven @wnbooks @BooksSphere @TransworldBooks

***Some titles I am DYING to read from the mammoth TBR pile, in no particular order***

things in jars
Things In Jars by Jess Kidd
Available in HB/Ebook/Audible
Synopsis ~

London, 1863. Bridie Devine, the finest female detective of her age, is taking on her toughest case yet. Reeling from her last job and with her reputation in tatters, a remarkable puzzle has come her way. Christabel Berwick has been kidnapped. But Christabel is no ordinary child. She is not supposed to exist.

As Bridie fights to recover the stolen child she enters a world of fanatical anatomists, crooked surgeons and mercenary showmen. Anomalies are in fashion, curiosities are the thing, and fortunes are won and lost in the name of entertainment. The public love a spectacle and Christabel may well prove the most remarkable spectacle London has ever seen.

Things in Jars is an enchanting Victorian detective novel that explores what it is to be human in inhumane times.

the anarchists club
The Anarchists’ Club by Alex Reeve – Leo Stanhope #2
Available in HB/Ebook/Audible – PB in March 2020
Synopsis ~

It’s been a year since Leo Stanhope lost the woman he loved, and came closing to losing his own life. Now, more than ever, he is determined to keep his head down and stay safe, without risking those he holds dear. But Leo’s hopes for peace and security are shattered when the police unexpectedly arrive at his lodgings: a woman has been found murdered at a club for anarchists, and Leo’s address is in her purse. When Leo is taken to the club by the police, he is shocked to discover there a man from his past, a man who knows Leo’s birth identity. And if Leo does not provide him with an alibi for the night of the woman’s killing, he is going to share this information with the authorities.

If Leo’s true identity is unmasked, he will be thrown into an asylum, but if he lies… will he be protecting a murderer?

the fourteenth letter
The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans
Available in HB/Ebook/Audible/PB
Synopsis ~

Phoebe Stanbury was killed in the summer of secrets…

One balmy June evening in 1881, Phoebe Stanbury stands before the guests at her engagement party: this is her moment, when she will join the renowned Raycraft family and ascend to polite society.

As she takes her fiancé’s hand, a stranger holding a knife steps forward and ends the poor girl’s life. Amid the chaos, he turns to her aristocratic groom and mouths:
‘I promised I would save you.’

The following morning, just a few miles away, timid young legal clerk William Lamb meets a reclusive client. He finds the old man terrified and in desperate need of aid: William must keep safe a small casket of yellowing papers, and deliver an enigmatic message: The Finder knows.

With its labyrinth of unfolding mysteries, Claire Evans’ riveting debut will be adored by fans of Kate Mosse, Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Jessie Burton.

the house on vesper sands
The House On Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell
Available in HB/Ebooks/Audible/PB
Synopsis ~

‘Ladies and gentlemen, the darkness is complete.’

It is the winter of 1893, and in London the snow is falling.

It is falling as Gideon Bliss seeks shelter in a Soho church, where he finds Angie Tatton lying before the altar. His one-time love is at death’s door, murmuring about brightness and black air, and about those she calls the Spiriters. In the morning she is gone.

The snow is falling as a seamstress climbs onto a ledge above Mayfair, a mysterious message stitched into her own skin. It is falling as she steadies herself and closes her eyes.

It is falling, too, as her employer, Lord Strythe, vanishes into the night, watched by Octavia Hillingdon, a restless society columnist who longs to uncover a story of real importance.

She and Gideon will soon be drawn into the same mystery, each desperate to save Angie and find out the truth about Lord Strythe. Their paths will cross as the darkness gathers, and will lead them at last to what lies hidden at the house on Vesper Sands.

the convictions of john delahunt
The Convictions Of John Delahunt by Andrew Hughes
Available in HB/Ebook/PB
Synopsis ~

On a cold December morning in 1841, a small boy is enticed away from his mother and his throat savagely cut. But when the people of Dublin learn why John Delahunt committed this vile crime, the outcry leaves no room for compassion. His fate is sealed, but this feckless Trinity College student and secret informer for the authorities in Dublin Castle seems neither to regret what he did nor fear his punishment. Sitting in Kilmainham Gaol in the days leading up to his execution, Delahunt tells his story in a final, deeply unsettling statement . . .

Dublin in the mid-19th century was a city on the edge – a turbulent time of suspicion and mistrust and the scent of rebellion against the Crown in the air, Beautifully written, brilliantly researched and with a seductive sense of period and place, this unnervingly compelling novel boasts a colourful assortment of characters: from carousing Trinity students, unscrupulous lowlifes and blackmailers to dissectionists, phrenologists and sinister agents of Dublin Castle who are operating according to their own twisted rules. And at its heart lie the doomed John Delahunt and Helen, his wife. Unconventional, an aspiring-writer and daughter of an eminent surgeon, she pursued Delahunt, married him and thereby ruined her own life. And as for Delahunt himself, we follow him from elegant ballrooms and tenement houses to taverns, courtrooms and to the impoverished alleyways where John Delahunt readily betrays his friends, his society and ultimately, himself.

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract The Confessions Of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins @mrsjaneymac #FrannieLangton #NewRelease #HistFic @VikingBooksUK

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The Confessions Of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
Currently Reading – Review To Follow

Synopsis ~

‘They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?’

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

A beautiful and haunting tale about one woman’s fight to tell her story, The Confessions of Frannie Langton leads you through laudanum-laced dressing rooms and dark-as-night back alleys, into the enthralling heart of Georgian London.

Extract ~

The Old Bailey,
London,
7 April 1826

Chapter One

My trial starts the way my life did: a squall of elbows and shoving and spit. From the prisoners’ hold they take me through the gallery, down the stairs and past the table crawling with barristers and clerks. Around me a river of faces in flood, their mutters rising, blending with the lawyers’ whispers. A noise that hums with all the spite of bees in a bush. Heads turn as I enter. Every eye a skewer.

I duck my head, peer at my boots, grip my hands to stop their awful trembling. It seems all of London is here, but then murder is the story this city likes best. All of them swollen into the same mood, all of them in a stir about the ‘sensation excited by these most ferocious murders’. Those were the words of the Morning Chronicle, itself in the business of harvesting that very sensation link an ink-black crop. I don’t make a habit of reading what the broadsheets say about me, for newspapers are like a mirror I saw once in a fair near the Strand that stretched my reflection like a rack, gave me two heads so I almost didn’t know myself. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to be written about, you know what I mean.

But there are turnkeys at Newgate who read them at you for sport, precious little you can do to get away.

When they see I’m not moving, they shove me forward with the flats of their hands and I shiver, despite the heat, fumble my way down the steps.

Murderer! The word follows me. Murderer! The Mulatta Murderess.
I’m forced to trot to keep up with the turnkeys so I don’t tumble crown over ankle. Fear skitters up my throat as they push me into the dock. The barristers look up from their table, idle as cattle in their mournful gowns. Even those old hacks who’ve seen it all want a glimpse of the Mulatta Murderess. Even the judge stares, fat and glossy in his robes, his face soft and blank as an old potato until he screws his eyes on me and nods at his limp-haired clerk to read the indictment.

FRANCES LANGTON, also known as Ebony Fran or Dusky Fran, is indicted for the wilful murder of GEORGE BENHAM and MARGUERITE BENHAM in that she on the 27th day of January in the year of Our Lord 1826 did feloniously and with malice aforethought assault GEORGE BENHAM and MARGUERITE BENHAM, subjects of our lord the King, in that she did strike and stab them until they were dead, both about the upper and middle chest, their bodies having been discovered by EUSTACIA LINUX, housekeeper, of Montfort Street, London.

MR JESSOP to conduct the prosecution.

The gallery is crowded, all manner of quality folk and ordinary folk and rabble squeezed in, the courtroom being one of the few places they’d ever be caught so cheek to jowl. Paduasoy silk next to Kashmir shawls next to kerchiefs. Fidgeting their backsides along the wood, giving off a smell like milk on the turn, like a slab of pork Phibbah forgot once, under the porch. The kind of smell that sticks your tongue to your throat. Some of them suck candied orange peel fished out of their purses, jaws going like paddles. The ones who can’t stomach being caught in any sort of honest smell. Ladies. I know the sort.

Jessop hooks his gown with his thumbs, pushes to his feet. His voice laps steady as water against a hull. So soft. He could be gabbing with them at his own fireside. Which is how he wants it, for that makes them lean closer, makes them attend.

‘Gentlemen, on the evening of the twenty-seventh of January, Mr and Mrs Benham were stabbed to death. Mr Benham in his library, Mrs Benham in her bedchamber. This . . . woman . . . the prisoner at the bar, stands accused of those crimes. Earlier that night, she confronted them in their drawing room, and threat- ened them with murder. Those threats were witnessed by several guests in attendance that evening, at one of Mrs Benham’s legendary soirées. You will hear from those guests. And you will hear from the housekeeper, Mrs Linux, who will tell you the pris- oner was observed going into Mrs Benham’s rooms shortly after she had retired. Mrs Linux went upstairs herself at around one o’clock that morning, where she discovered her master’s body in his library. Shortly thereafter, she entered Mrs Benham’s bed- chamber and discovered her body, and, next to it, the prisoner. In her mistress’s bed. Asleep. When the prisoner was woken by the housekeeper, she had blood on her hands, blood drying on her sleeves.

What frightens me is dying believing that it was me who killed her

‘All through her arrest and incarceration . . . to this day, she has refused to speak about what happened that night. The refuge of those who are unable to offer a plain and honest defence. Well, if she can now offer an explanation, I am sure you will hear it, gentlemen, I am sure you will hear it. But it seems to me that a satisfactory explanation is impossible when the crime is attended with circumstances such as these.’

I grip the railing, shackles clanking like keys. I can’t hold on to what he’s saying. My eye swings around the room, catches the sword hung behind the judge, silver as a chink of moon. I read the words hammered in gold beneath. ‘A false witness shall not be unpunished, but he that speaketh lies shall perish.’ Well. We’re all going to perish, liars and truth-tellers alike, though the Old Bailey is meant to speed a liar’s progress. But that’s not what frightens me. What frightens me is dying believing that it was me who killed her.

I see you at the barristers’ table. You look up, give me a quick nod that settles on me like a horse blanket. There, laid out like china on a buffet, is the evidence against me: Benham’s cravat, his green brocade waistcoat; Madame’s lavender silk, her chemise, and her bandeau with the swan feather dyed lavender also, to match her dress. And there is Linux’s butchering knife, which, so far as I knew, was in its scabbard in the kitchen the whole time I was in Madame’s room.

But it’s the thing beside them that you’re frowning at. When I see it, worry curdles my guts. It’s curled inside an apothecary’s jar, tight as a fist. The baby. Someone joggles the table and it flattens against the glass, like a cheek. There’s a question in your raised brows, but it’s one I cannot answer. I didn’t expect to see it here. The baby. Why is it allowed here? Will they ask me to speak about it?

When I see it, my knees start to quake, and I feel all the terror of that night again. But the mind is its own place, as Milton said, it can make a Hell of Heaven and a Heaven of Hell. How does it do that? By remembering, or forgetting. The only tricks a mind can play.
A wave of memory breaks. She’s lying in bed, up on her elbows with her toes pointing into the air, in her hand an apple I’m trying in vain to coax her to eat. ‘Listen! Are you listening?’ She kicks one of her heels.

‘I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said ‒ “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies . . .’

I’m only half listening, because it is impossible, this thing that is happening, my mistress lying with me in her bed and reading me a poem! But also because it was one of those times, when it fell to me to watch what they called the balance of her mind, like a pot I had on the stove. Is she well? I’m asking myself. Is she well?

A novel is like a long, warm drink but a poem is a spike through the head

She turns to me. ‘Do you like it?’

‘Who is it?’ I ask, stirring her hair with my breath.

‘Shelley. Though I like Byron better, don’t you? The prince of melodrama.’ She turns over suddenly, onto her back, and closes her eyes. ‘Byron is proof, if ever it were needed, that a man is merely spoiled by his vices while a woman is soiled by hers. Oh, Frances, Frances, don’t you think everyone should be prescribed a poem a day? Woman cannot live on novels alone!’

She was right about that. A novel is like a long, warm drink but a poem is a spike through the head.

I told you that story yesterday when we first met. I don’t know why, except maybe I wanted you to know something about me and her other than the terrible things that are being said. You lawyers are as squeamish about hearsay as a planter about cane-rats, yet a trial boils a whole character down to that.

‘John Pettigrew,’ you said, holding out your hand, with your brief still in it so the ribbons dribbled down your wrists. You peered out through all your dark hair. I could see you were even nervier than I was about what lay ahead of us.

Then you said, ‘For God’s sake, give me something I can save your neck with.’

But how can I give you what I do not have? Remembering is a thing that happens or doesn’t, like breathing.

So I told you that story. I suppose I wanted to show you there was love between me and her. Though what good does that do? Whatever she and I were to each other is not a thing you men would care for. At any rate, love is no defence to murder, as you said, though, more often than not, it’s an explanation.

But this is a story of love, not just murder, though I know that’s not the kind of story you’re expecting. In truth, no one expects any kind of story from a woman like me. No doubt you think this will be one of those slave histories, all sugared over with misery and despair. But who’d want to read one of those? No, this is my account of myself and my own life and the happiness that came to it, which was not a thing I thought I’d ever be allowed, the happiness or the account.

I have the paper you gave me, and a fresh quill, and your instructions to explain myself.
Any gaol-bird could tell you that for every crime there are two stories, and that an Old Bailey trial is the story of the crime, not the story of the prisoner.

That story is one only I can tell.

SC
Sara Collins
Twitter

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Anne Bonny #BookReview Murder In Belgravia & A Death In Chelsea by @LynnBrittney2 5* @TheMirrorBooks #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #London #ADeathInChelsea #Mayfair100

MIB cover
Murder In Belgravia by Lynn Brittney
Review Copy

Synopsis:

The first in the exciting new Mayfair 100 series of nostalgic crime sagas.

Set against the backdrop of WW1, Mayfair 100 is the telephone number for a small, specially formed crimebusting team based in a house in Mayfair, London in 1915. Just 10 months into the First World War, the City is flooded with women taking over the work vacated by men in the Armed Services.

Chief Inspector Peter Beech, a young man invalided out of the war in one of the first battles, is tasked with investigating the murder of an aristocrat. The man’s wife, a key witness and suspect, will only speak to a woman about the unpleasant details of the case. After persuading the Chief Commissioner to allow him to set up a clandestine team to deal with such situations, Beech puts together a small motley crew of well-educated women and professional policemen.

As Beech, Victoria, Caroline, Rigsby and Tollman investigate the murder, they delve into the seedier parts of WWI London, taking them from criminal gangs to brothels and underground drug rings supplying heroin to the upper classes.

Will the Mayfair 100 team solve the murder? And if they do, will they be allowed to continue working as a team?

My Review:

The novel opens with a confession and a problem…
Lady Harriet makes an emotional and desperate confession to murder. However, due to her society class and position, she refuses to elaborate unless she is allowed to speak to a female. This causes quite a conundrum for Chief Inspector Peter Beech, as there are no females currently on the staff.

Eventually, Peter is able to negotiate the formation of a new team, which will include an unlikely bunch of amateur detectives. Met Commissioner Sir Edward Henry is reluctant to agree, believing females have no place in the police force. Can the team prove him wrong?

The team is formed, it includes Caroline aka Dr Allardyce a young woman who has already defied her class, taking a role in the medical profession treating women. PC Billy Rigsby aka ‘The Creek’ a young and novice police officer. Retired Detective Sargent Arthur Tollman re-recruited back to the police force due to lack of man power with the war. And finally Caroline, a lawyer with an eye for mystery and an old flame of Peter’s.

‘Times had changed with a vengeance and the police force had a long way to go to catch up’

Lady Harriet’s physical condition worsens and it becomes apparent to Caroline and Peter, that she would have lacked the physical wellbeing and strength to commit the murder of her husband Lord Mucheson.
So who killed the Lord?

The team must dig into the private lives of the Lord and Lady and their serving staff. Can they gain the trust of the upper classes and the serving staff? Or will the culprit remain at large?

The historical depth within the novel is insightful, accurate and really enhances the story as a whole. We learn about the impact of the great war on the mental wellbeing of the returning soldiers, the injured and the families left waiting for answers.
Recently I watched author Marlon James give a talk at Oxford Uni about JRR Tolkein; within the talk he breaks down the difference emotionally and on the male psyche between the great war and world war 2. It is easy to see, how this could provide ample inspiration for historical fiction writing and Lynne Brittney does not disappoint, at all!

The novel also touches upon the discrimination women faced in the early days of their relationship with the Met. Ironic really, given that now in 2019 the met is now ran by a female!

Rich in historical detail with a real sense of the era. 1915 is brought alive on the page and I was so pleased to learn this is the first in a new series! 5*

DIC cover
A Death In Chelsea by Lynn Brittney
Review Copy

Synopsis:

Set against the backdrop of WW1, Mayfair 100 is the telephone number for a small, specially-formed crime fighting team based in a house in Mayfair.

A call comes through to Mayfair 100, where the intrepid team of investigators eagerly await their next case. A society gossip queen has been found hanged in her room in mysterious circumstances. Her enemies are numerous – and her family are convinced she was murdered.

Can the group uncover the truth?

My Review:

The novel offers a brief introduction for those readers whom may not have had chance to devour Murder In Belgravia. It does cover the necessary facts, but I am glad I had the chance to read the first in the series as there is four individual characters that form the team and each have great background stories.

July 1915, Chief Inspector Peter Beech is summoned to the office of the met commissioner. There he is introduced to the case which forms the basis of this novel The death of society ‘it girl’ Lady Adeline Treborne. Her mother the Duchess of Penhere, believes it to be a murder…
Adeline was estranged from her family due to the scandalous nature of her profession.
‘Whoever heard of a society columnist who never actually went to any of the events she wrote about’

We are briefly introduced to a new team member Miss Mabel Summersby. I really loved the introduction of a new female team member and I hope the author continues to layer the novels with more intriguing characters.

Adeline’s post mortem brings more mystery to the case and we are left to wonder, who do you solve the death of a woman, many had motive to kill?
Is Adeline the most hated person in all of London?
The team must dig into the pasts of Adeline’s family and those that knew her.

This novel shines a spotlight onto the working relationship between team members Tollman and Billy. I really loved the mix-up of the old and new police tactics and their ability to create funny moments within the novel.

The novel covers differing themes to Murder In Belgravia with blackmail, hidden desires, secrets and hushed up crimes playing a central role in Adeline’s career success…

A real sense of the team spirit and impressive characterisation. 5*

LB
Lynn Brittney
Twitter

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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Way Of All Flesh by @ambroseparry #HistoricalFiction @canongatebooks Edinburgh 1847. City of medicine, money and murder. . .

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The Way Of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Edinburgh, 1847. City of Medicine, Money, Murder.

In Edinburgh’s Old Town young women are being found dead, all having suffered similarly gruesome ends. Across the city in the New Town, medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson.

Simpson’s patients range from the richest to the poorest of this divided city. His house is like no other, full of visiting luminaries and daring experiments in the new medical frontier of anaesthesia. It is here that Raven meets housemaid Sarah Fisher, who recognises trouble when she sees it and takes an immediate dislike to him. She has all of Raven’s intelligence but none of his privileges, in particular his medical education.

With each having their own motive to look deeper into these deaths, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh’s underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out alive.

My Review:

As a huge fan of historical fiction, the synopsis instantly captured my interest. Edinburgh 1847, medicine, money and murder = SOLD! Within the immediate opening scenes you are aware that the writing is without a doubt intelligent and skilled. The novel is packed full of interesting and insightful information regarding the history of medicine. This is a huge part of this novel and it is not a typical Victorian era, murdered prostitute thriller, it is very much more than that!

‘That was Edinburgh for you: public decorum and private sin, city of a thousand secret selves’

In the opening scenes protagonist Will Raven discovers the murdered corpse of prostitute Evie Lawson. He is horrified at the scene but flees fearing he will be blamed. Raven is a client of Evie’s and it is this that leads him to become obsessed with finding her killer!

‘It was not a night for solitude, or for sobriety’

Raven’s background is explored, and we learn that contrary to his public persona, he is not a man of financial means. In fact, he is wanted by Edinburgh’s most feared loan sharks. With the brutal warning find the money or lose an eye.
All hope resides on his new apprenticeship with Dr Simpson.

Raven arrives at Dr Simpson’s and introduced to an array of characters. Jarvis the butler, David and Walter the elder children of the Simpson family and Miss Mina Grindlay, Dr Simpson’s demanding and selfish sister-in-law. But it is not any of these that catch his eye or irritate him. But it is Sarah the housemaid. Sarah is quite the force to be reckoned with, as Raven will come to discover himself.

Dr Simpson is a professor of midwifery and assists all patients rich and poor. At first Raven is completely taken aback by this approach but eventually with experience, comes to appreciate what Dr Simpson is hoping to achieve. Raven is shocked to when he is informed that Sarah assists with morning clinics and even more surprised by the depth of her knowledge. Needless to say the pair do not get off to a great start.

When Sarah learns that the Sheldrake family’s housemaid Rose has absconded and gone missing she is concerned. Mr Sheldrake was known to have quite the temper and Rose was known to be no angel herself. But something eats away at Sarah about the case and she becomes determined to gather some more information.

Evie’s body is finally discovered and quickly assumed to be a suicide via alcohol. Which Raven knows to be untrue given the gruesome scene and the signs upon the corpse. But in this era, women are second class citizens, let alone women of the night.

There are various scenes with patients which all assist Raven in his education and apprenticeship. As the readers they are often truly insightful case studies of what it was like to be a woman in the Victorian era. When you had little say/rights over your own reproductive system, in the medical sense.
Raven continues to have disagreements with Sarah and it is clear to see Raven believes a servant especially a female servant should know her place! At times I found Raven quite hypocritical given that he is staff himself. But Sarah can hold her own and makes it quite clear what she thinks of Raven in return!

“It is my duty to assess those waiting and to recommend the order of urgency by which they ought to be admitted” – Sarah

Sarah longs for a career in medicine, she is intelligent, driven and more than capable. However, the era has a long way to go. She attempts to apply for a position at the local druggist’s. When she is simply scolded for even thinking such an idea would work. . .

‘Our assistant must inspire confidence in our customers. For that, only a man will do’ – Mr Duncan

Raven, Sarah and Dr Simpson all have very credible and interesting backstory’s. They read like real people from history.
Raven and Sarah continue to investigate the two recent deaths and through a bizarre twist of events end up working together. This I absolutely loved, the characters slowly grow on you, but none more so, than when they eventually team up.

But who is the killer targeting women? Is it an illegal abortionist gone wrong? When Raven accompanies Dr Simpson to the local hospital, he witnesses first hand the dangers of women with no access to adequate medical healthcare.
‘Desperate people are often driven to do desperate things’ – Ziegler

As you read on, you begin to question the killer’s motives. Is this a form of medical experimentation? Are the women being punished? When Rose’s body Is found to be with child, it adds further weight to these theories. Raven begins to sympathise with the desperation the women must have felt. . .
‘Desperation is often the mother of misplaced faith’ – Raven

The novel has a clear feel for more literary/historical fiction than crime fiction. Despite the murders that take place. As the focus remains on the medicine within the era. You really get a sense of how dire the situation was for women in 1847.
The novel has such a literary feel and I had so many quotes I wanted to use. I shall leave you with my favourite. . .
‘The only difference between a medicine and a poison is the dosage’

Unique, incredibly well-researched and insightful historical fiction 4.5*