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A Corruption of Blood

THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Lewis, Parry, Walls & Wilson

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THE SILENT OATH by Michael J Lewis

The Silent Oath is the fourth in The Oath series that depicts life at Blackleigh Public School in the 1950s. Jonathan Simon, 17, is in his fourth year at Blackleigh, but he is self-conscious about his appointment as one of five Prefects in Trafalgar House. Jonathan knows:
(1) The school code of conduct mandates no snitching on anyone.
(2) The student Prefects have absolute power to discipline.
(3) Mr. Phillip Temple the new Headmaster is determined to revise the school admission policy to achieve a more even playing field in education.
The pressure mounts during a school trip to Paris as the school’s Board of Governors as they oppose the new Head. They will stop at nothing to get their way. In his effort to strive to support the Headmaster’s goals, Jonathan will have to overcome far more than an oath of silence executed by his enemies to prevail. This was published by The Book Guild on 7th June.

A CORRUPTION OF BLOOD by Ambrose Parry

Ambrose Parry is the pen name of husband and wife writing team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. Their series of historical crime novels set in 1850s Edinburgh featuring Dr Will Raven and Sarah Fisher began with The Art of Dying. Next came The Way of All Flesh, and this is the paperback version of the third in the series. A package containing human remains is washed up on the shores of Leith, and Raven is dragged into the darker reaches of the city’s underworld. Meanwhile, his former lover Sarah Fisher is trying to make her way in the world of medicine against the determined prejudice of the establishment. This is published by Canongate Books and will be available on 4th August. For a full review of the novel, click this link.

IGOR AND THE TWISTED TALES OF CASTLEMAINE  by Ian J Walls & Richard L Markworth

Not my usual fare, this, but here goes. Following decades of torture at the hands of his cruel master Victor Frankenstein, the once-downtrodden and pathetic Igor finally rises up and walks out on Victor, in the hope of finding a fulfilling life-less-ordinary elsewhere. Instead, something wicked his way came, and Igor finds his way to Castlemaine, an accursed village nestled deep in the Carpathian Mountains, where terrors stalk the waking world and ale is more expensive than in London. Published by Matador, this is available now.

FERAL by Glenis Wilson

When a storm causes a low-flying Cessna to crash in the woods on his sheep farm, it proves a catalyst for Kent Evans and his little daughter, Rachel. Their lives become entangled with three other people: Phillip Lemmingham, air traffic controller, Anan Isooba, the Cessna pilot and Mr Smith, owner of Wild Ark Zoo (and drug dealer). The pilot is trapped in the wreckage and one piece of cargo, a crate carrying an illegally imported black panther, smashes open. The panther escapes. Desperate to save his business, Mr Smith is determined to track down and recapture the panther while also recovering the second secret part of the cargo; a consignment of cocaine. Meanwhile the pilot, unable to move, remains an easy meal for a prowling hungry panther. From The Book Guild, this was published on 7th June.

A CORRUPTION OF BLOOD . . . Between the covers

 

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Simpson_James_Young_signature_pictureAmbrose Parry is the pseudonym used by husband and wife writing team Dr Marisa Haetzman and Chris Brookmyre. As a pseudonym goes, it is a pretty good one, especially for historical novels, as it has a rather convincing resonance to it. Writing partnerships are more common than you might think, and in some cases it remains a mystery as to who contributes what. Not so, possibly, in this case, as Dr Haetzman was a consultant anaesthetist at Wishaw General Hospital in Scotland, and the central characters in this novel are a young doctor in early Victorian Edinburgh – Will Raven – and his mentor, the real life James Young Simpson (left), a pioneer in the use of anaesthesia (chloroform in the early days) in surgical procedures.

This is the third novel in the series so, as ever, there is a back-story, part of which you can find in my review of the previous book The Art of Dying. Raven’s love interest in that book is a young woman called Sarah who was a domestic servant in the Simpson household. She had a brief flirtation with Raven, but then married another Edinburgh doctor. He died, but left Sarah a considerable fortune, which is helping her pursue her ambition to become a doctor. When this book begins, she has left Edinburgh on her version of The Grand Tour, during which she hopes to meet the first woman to be officially recognised as a professional physician, the American Dr Blackwell.

Screen Shot 2021-09-02 at 18.26.27Meanwhile, Raven has met – and fallen in love with – Eugenie Todd, the beautiful and intelligent daughter of another Edinburgh doctor, and has also become involved in a murder mystery. Sir Ainsley Douglas, a powerful and influential man of means has been found dead, and the post mortem reveals traces of arsenic in his stomach. His wastrel son Gideon is arrested on suspicion of poisoning his father, with whom he has had a fairly unpleasant falling-out. Raven is an old acquaintance – but far from a friend – of Gideon. The two knew each other from university and Raven has a very low opinion of his former fellow student, and is very surprised when he is summoned to Gideon’s prison cell and asked if he will investigate Sir Ainsley’s death.

Sarah returns from her trip to the continent, but she is chastened by her meeting with Dr Blackwell, who suggested that she simply did not have the depth of education required to become a physician. Uneasy and uncertain at the news of Raven’s new romantic venture, she distracts herself from this unwelcome news by investigating an illegal trade which involves the selling of unwanted babies.

As Raven attempts to piece together the events of the last evening of Sir Ainsley’s life, the arsenic poisoning looks increasingly unlikely since – if it had been administered by Gideon – a former medical student would know that the poison is easily traced in the body. Raven has more personal matters on his mind, too, as he suspects that Eugenie and her father are keeping something from him about the young woman’s past.

There are some grisly scenes in the novel involving both the living and the dead, but the story is suitably – and fiendishly – complex. Readers will have to wait until the very last few pages for all to be revealed and, for what it’s worth, I didn’t foresee how the plot eventually worked itself out. There are no prizes on offer for guessing which parts of the narrative are written by Dr Haetzman, but these authentic descriptions of surgical procedures and spotlights on the history of medicine blend seamlessly with the crime fiction plot to make for a riveting and convincing murder mystery. A Corruption of Blood is published by Canongate Books and is available now.

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