Book review: The Way of All Flesh

12 the way of all fleshThis is a new feature on Words Worth Writing, in association with NetGalley.

The Way of All Flesh, Ambrose Parry
Thanks to NetGalley and to Canongate Books for an advance copy of The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry.

This is the debut historical crime novel from the team behind Ambrose Parry, Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman – not a secret as there’s a Q&A with them at the end of the book – of which there are more to follow.

Set in 1840s Edinburgh, when it was the city of medicine, science was making huge leaps but not without its mishaps along the way. The Way of All Flesh introduces medical apprentice Will Raven and housemaid Sarah Fisher with some famous names appearing alongside them.

There is a lot of historical and medical research in this story, to the extent that the authors seem to have packed as much as possible in, regardless of whether or not it was relevant. For example, Currar Bell and Jane Eyre are both mentioned at least three times, and the almost entire chapter on photography seemed to digress too. In fact, I would have wondered what this had to do with anything had a specific clue not been revealed, but I do think it could have been revealed less clumsily.

There is also what seems to be a cast of thousands, with several similar names used over and over again, including some that were just straight repetition – there were two Jessies and at least six James as well as Jarvis, John, Julia, Joao and Jane as well. And the book opened with an Evie and an Effie. It got to be quite confusing.

However, I found the book an excellent story, written as though it were written at the time, and I enjoyed getting to know the main characters.