Book Reviews

The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry

‘Edinburgh, 1850. Despite being at the forefront of modern medicine, hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But it is not just the deaths that dismay the esteemed Dr James Simpson – a whispering campaign seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances. Simpson’s protg Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher are determined to clear their patron’s name. But with Raven battling against the dark side of his own nature, and Sarah endeavouring to expand her own medical knowledge beyond what society deems acceptable for a woman, the pair struggle to understand the cause of the deaths. Will and Sarah must unite and plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets to clear Simpson’s name. But soon they discover that the true cause of these deaths has evaded suspicion purely because it is so unthinkable.


Rating: 4/5 stars

Publication Date: 29th August 2019

Page Count: 416 pages

Genre: Historical / Crime / Mystery


The Art of Dying

As equally compelling as last year’s The Way of All Flesh (if not more so), The Art of Dying offers both a creative and accurate depiction of 19th century, Victorian medicine and the topic of women’s rights and capabilities.

In this historical, crime fiction, Ambrose Parry (a pseudonym for the collaboration between multi-award-winning author Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Marisa Haetzman) weaves a complex and alluring story of medical powerlessness, abuse, and murder. It takes places 2-3 years after its predecessor, once again mainly set in Edinburgh, Scotland. And it goes without saying, a lot has changed.

Will Raven, previously a medical apprentice / student for Dr James Simpson, is now a widely travelled (Berlin, London, Paris, Vienna) and fully qualified Doctor, returning to 52 Queen Street to assist Dr Simpson in a greater capacity. Sarah Fisher is no longer a housemaid but an integral part of Dr Simpson’s operations at Queen Street. Yet, some appear to struggle with this concept. Moreover, a campaign is seeking to blame Dr Simpson for the death of a young patient (but as Raven and Sarah seek to clear his name, they realise something far more sinister may be afoot).

Starting with an ominous prologue (‘it is easy to hide in plain sight of those who do not consider your presence worthy of notice‘), and continuing with a consistent spate of familial deaths, Brookmyre and Haetzman have managed to create an incremental and suspenseful read.

The publication date for The Art of Dying is August 29th 2019. A Corruption of Blood is set to follow as a third installment in 2021.


About the author

Ambrose Parry is the pen name for husband and wife Chris Brookmyre (known mostly for his crime novels) and Dr Marisa Haetzman, a consultant anaesthetist. It is the latter’s interest in medical history that lead to their first collaboration, The Way of All Flesh.

Parry’s Twitter can be found here.

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