A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry
Edinburgh in 1850 was a tough place to live for many people, and sometimes wealth and status was no defence to the challenges of life. In this third “Raven and Fisher” mystery, Dr Will Raven and Sarah Fisher are again caught up in the confusing, frustrating and sometimes brutal life concerned with the medical establishment of the time. Social scandal and accusations are flying around the community, and Raven and Fisher are once more at the heart of the storm. This book follows two powerful novels, and in this one the pace never slackens. Raven is still assisting the generous Professor Simpson with his work, and since the general acceptance of chloroform as an anaesthetic both doctors have increased workload. Ravan has hopes of setting up his own practice, and to that end is considering his matrimonial options. Sarah is still the ambitious and fiercely intelligent ex housemaid whose abilities and courage have never been doubted, but her most recent challenges have left scars. As the book begins they are apart, as Raven continues his work in both the poorest and richest corners of Edinburgh, and Sarah travels in search of the woman who inspires her hopes to achieve medical qualification. On her return she is drawn into a hunt for a lost baby that will have implications for many.
This novel, like its predecessors, spares no detail in describing the medical crisis into which Raven and Sarah are drawn. Written by Chris Brookmyre and a consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haerzman, the novel is well paced, brilliantly written and correct in its medical detail. Not that the details are allowed to slow the narrative which moves effortlessly from the hospital and rooms in houses where medical emergencies are to be tackled. As a doctor who turns up at tricky labours Raven is used to being regarded with suspicion by midwives, but the results of his almost spectacular actions are memorable. The discovery of human remains at the harbour disturbs even his sensibilities, and he is intrigued. Meanwhile he feels inclined to move on from his feelings for Sarah as she seems even more unobtainable, and he is keen that she has the freedom to achieve her own role. A new romantic connection is somehow surprising, and while genuine, the young woman, Eugenie, seems perplexing. Sarah is meanwhile tired and disappointed that following her destiny seems more complex but her determination to make a difference compels her into action. The strong bond between the two is nevertheless inescapable as they are drawn together to investigate if guilt for a crime can be easily assigned and if it truly represents tainted blood.
This is a book that took my attention and never let it go until the final pages with their revelations. Part thriller, part mystery, this book has characters which bounce off the page in all their diversity, confusion and reality. The atmosphere of mid century Edinburgh is very well drawn, and the less than salubrious lanes and houses of the poorer areas are vividly evoked. All three of these books are genuinely enthralling and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this latest instalment.