09 Aug A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry
Life, death and murder in Victorian Edinburgh!
Oh, I love a blogtour that delivers me to past places in my own country – Scotland’s capital city has a fascinating history and I’m very willing to be taken back 150 years or more to be immersed in its secrets and mysteries.
Even when they’re as dark and powerful as these ones!
Dr Will Raven, protégé of Professor Simpson – the real life doctor who discovered the anaesthetic powers of chloroform – is on his way home from a successful delivery when he comes across a group of people watching a small bundle being lifted from the waters of Leith.
It’s the body of a baby boy, and very sadly it has been murdered – perhaps by its unfortunate mother?
This sets the tone for one of the underlying themes of this book, which is the plight of unmarried mothers in Victorian times. Blame for their situation is placed firmly on them – they’ve led the men into temptation, obviously!
Now they must pay the price by giving up their babies or living a life of poverty and shame.
Rich powerful men set the rules – men like Sir Ainsley Douglas, who would like to see prostitutes with venereal disease imprisoned for their situation.
He’s universally disliked, but when he turns up dead, suspicion falls squarely on his son, Gideon, who hates him and all he stands for.
Raven becomes involved in the case through the request of his fiancée, Eugenie – she wants him to clear Gideon’s name. But what are her motives?
She and Raven are not wholly open with each other. She’s hiding secrets and so is he, not least his devotion to Sarah Fisher, one-time housemaid to Professor Simpson and now a young widow of independent means.
Once, Raven had hoped to make her his wife, but realised he could not stand in the way of her own ambition to become a doctor.
And so we reach another strong theme in the book, that of women’s place as second class citizens when it comes to education and careers. Gideon’s sister Amelia, for example, would have loved to be a lawyer.
With these two themes underpinning the narrative, the plot grows ever stronger as Raven and Sarah try to solve the mystery of Sir Ainsley’s death, and to discover just what is happening to babies given up to baby farmers in the dingy streets of the capital.
These two plot threads inevitably cross to give a story that exposes the dark underbelly of Edinburgh, where the filthy streets and tenements of the old town contrast with the elegance of the new town – with kindness and cruelty to be found in both places.
That neither Sarah nor Raven is afraid to cross the divide speaks volumes for their characters.
Their attraction to each other crackles from the pages, but they never lose sight of their duty to truth and to their fellow human beings, rich or poor. Because it’s just not poor girls who get pregnant …
A Corruption of Blood is the third Raven and Fisher murder mystery from this Scottish author collaboration, but the first one I’ve read – and I’m definitely going back to read the others.
A stand-alone story, it delivers on all counts, with two feisty investigators in Raven and Sarah.
The people who surround them are all convincing characters, too, from kindly Professor Simpson, to dour Detective McLevy, to nippy maid Lizzie and all the others in between.
The story crackles with suspense and danger but also with passion, and the threads all come together very neatly at the end.
In many ways a dark story – how could it not be with two murders at its heart, one of them a baby – this was not at all difficult to read. There was humour and pathos in the narrative, and the writer recreates brilliantly the two sides of 19th century Edinburgh with rich descriptive prose, and a real insight into the world of nineteenth century medicine and forensic science, both taking giant leaps forward at that time.
Ambrose Parry is another author to add to my favourites’ list. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.
A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry is published by Canongate Books in paperback and ebook
About the Author
Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for a collaboration between Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. The couple are married and live in Scotland.
Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels.
Follow on Twitter @ambroseparry
Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blogtour and to publishers Canongate Books for the copy of the book.
Catch up with the rest of the blogtour at the links on the poster