Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR REVIEW!!! A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry

The cover of A Corruption of Blood features the outline of a raven in emerald green and black against a white background
Image Description: The cover of A Corruption of Blood features the outline of a raven in emerald green and black against a white background

Edinburgh. This city will bleed you dry.

Dr Will Raven is a man seldom shocked by human remains, but even he is disturbed by the contents of a package washed up at the Port of Leith. Stranger still, a man Raven has long detested is pleading for his help to escape the hangman.

Back in the townhouse of Dr James Simpson, Sarah Fisher has set her sights on learning to practise medicine. Almost everyone seems intent on dissuading her from this ambition, but when word reaches her that a woman has recently obtained a medical degree despite her gender, Sarah decides to seek her out.

Raven’s efforts to prove his former adversary’s innocence are failing and he desperately needs Sarah’s help. Putting their feelings for one another aside, their investigations take them to both extremes of Edinburgh’s social divide, where they discover that wealth and status cannot alter a fate written in the blood.

A Corruption of Blood, the third instalment in Ambrose Parry’s Raven and Fisher series of historical mysteries, has all the period atmosphere and astute characterisation of its predecessors, The Way of All Flesh and The Art of Dying.

Set in 1850 – just under a year on from the events of The Art of DyingA Corruption of Blood sees young doctor Will Raven and his old flame Sarah Fisher sucked back into the darker side of Victorian Edinburgh. When a package containing the remains of a young child washes up on the shores of the Leith, Raven is shocked but not surprised. Edinburgh might be on the rise but the city remains home to intense poverty, and there are plenty of desperate people out there despite the moralising of rich ‘benefactors’ such as Sir Ainsley Douglas.

But when Sir Ainsley himself later dies in suspicious circumstances – and an old adversary of Raven’s is suspected of the crime – it soon becomes apparent that there is more to the body in the Leith than meets the eye. What could be the connection between the death of one of the richest men in Edinburgh and the package thrown into the Leith? Unravelling the mystery will take all of Raven and Sarah’s ingenuity – and will imperil the lives and futures of them both.

I’ve said it before but one of my favourite things about this series is the level of historical research that, although lightly worn, clearly underpins each book. In addition to bring the grime and the glamour of nineteenth-century Edinburgh to life, A Corruption of Blood continues to interweave the real and the fictitious, as Sarah and Will continue their association with Dr James Simpson, the medical pioneer who popularised the use of chloroform as an anaesthetic.

Simpson’s house at 52 Queen Street continues to be the beating heart of the book, even as Will and Sarah begin to spread their wings and develop their own lives away from their mentor. This means that, for returning readers, there will be plenty of familiar faces to enjoy catching up with, as well as new interpersonal intrigues to follow. Will and Sarah both continue to develop as characters, with Sarah now determined to use her newly won respectability and independence to forge her own career in medicine. Will, meanwhile, has met the woman he wants to marry – but things get complicated when Eugenie’s father, Dr Cameron Todd, turns out to be Sir Ainsley’s personal doctor.

Newcomers to the series need not be afraid of jumping into A Corruption of Blood however. Although it’s wonderful to see how Sarah and Will’s personal journeys progress in this novel, the central mystery is standalone and personal connections and past cases are briefly explained as necessary. That said, I’d urge anyone thinking of reading the series to go back to The Way of All Flesh and The Art of Dying because they’re fantastic novels in and of themselves, and you do get some important backstory that helps flesh out Will and Sarah’s relationship.

As with previous entries in the series, A Corruption of Blood doesn’t shy away from the less salubrious aspects of Victorian life. From the challenges that Sarah faces to get accepted as a medical practitioner in her own right, to the stigma surrounding unwed mothers and the devastating impact of poverty and precarity, the novel paints a picture of a complex world of social hierarchy, power, and corruption that both captivates and repels. In particular, I was fascinated to learn in this novel about Elizabeth Blackwell – the first woman to obtain a medical degree and be registered with the UK General Medical Council – and her struggles for both education and recognition.

In short, A Corruption of Blood is a brilliant addition to an already excellent historical crime series. With a twisting plot and compelling characters, it continues to evoke mid-nineteenth century Edinburgh in all its dark and gritty glory. Fans of the series will enjoy being reunited with Sarah and Raven, whilst newcomers should take this opportunity to dive into a thoroughly entertaining and vividly evoked historical mystery.

A Corruption of Blood (Raven and Fisher Mysteries #3) by Ambrose Parry is published by Canongate and is now available in paperback from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones,, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 24 August 2022 so please do check out the other stops for more reviews and content!

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry

Edinburgh, 1849.

Hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. And a whispering campaign seeks to paint Dr James Simpson, pioneer of medical chloroform, as a murderer.

Determined to clear Simpson’s name, his protégé Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher must plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets and find out who or what is behind the deaths. Soon they discover that the cause of the deaths has evaded detection purely because it is so unthinkable.

Having thoroughly enjoyed The Way of All Flesh, the first of Ambrose Parry’s historical mysteries to feature Will Raven and Sarah Fisher, I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for the paperback release of the follow-up, intriguingly entitled The Art of Dying.

Set two years after the conclusion of The Way of all Flesh, The Art of Dying sees Will Raven, now a fully qualified doctor, returning to 52 Queen Street and to the employ of the brilliant yet eccentric Dr James Simpson. He finds a household that is both the same yet different in small but crucial ways. One of Dr Simpson’s previous employees has levelled a dreadful accusation of medical negligence against him. There is a new assistant whose skulking and watchful eyes seem to keep the whole household under surveillance. And former housemaid Sarah Fisher is now not only elevated into the role of doctor’s assistant but, more importantly for Raven, now Mrs Sarah Banks.

As new relationships are forged and old acquaintances – both welcome and unwelcome – are renewed, Raven and Sarah once again join forces in an effort to clear the name of their friend and mentor. But in doing so, they inadvertently stumble upon a dangerous murderer. One who may have hidden undetected for years. And who, upon discovery, is more than prepared to kill again.

As with The Way of All Flesh, The Art of Dying does a fantastic job of conjuring the world of nineteenth-century Edinburgh in all it’s messy glory. From the refined elegance of the New Town townhouses to the darkened alleyways of the historic Old Town closes, the city and its people leap off the page.

For newcomers to the series, The Art of Dying does an excellent job of reintroducing the characters and their relative situations without spoiling the conclusion of the first novel. Whilst I would certainly recommend starting with The Way of all Flesh (a cracking mystery in its own right), there is certainly nothing to stop readers diving in to Will and Sarah’s world with The Art of Dying.

Indeed, the two years between the two novels have given time for the characters to grow and develop. The subtle but noticeable changes in the characters of Sarah and Will are fascinating to see and I really enjoyed the way in which their relationship changes and develops over the course of the novel. There are also some pleasing reintroductions to some familiar characters, including the eccentric yet brilliant James Simpson (a real life Professor of Midwifery, and a pioneer of the use of chloroform as an anaesthetic) and Raven’s wonderfully menacing ‘friends in low places’.

As with the previous book in the series, I really enjoyed the ways in which the plot is used to examine wider societal issues, such as female education. Intelligent and open-minded, Sarah is desperate to use her newly gained medical knowledge to qualify as a doctor but – in Edinburgh at least – her gender precludes her from ever realising her dreams. Raven, meanwhile, is struggling to come to terms with the psychology of his own inner nature, as well as with decisions made two years previously on the basis of class and societal pressures.

The series also gives a fascinating insight into the early days of obstetric medicine, including arguments for and against the use of anaesthetic and the difficulties in performing caesarean sections. This does, of course, mean that the book reflects the medical practices and attitudes of the time – trigger warnings for some slightly gruesome depictions of early medical procedures, as well as for mentions of drug-taking, cancer, miscarriage and stillbirth.

Despite the occasionally grim atmosphere, I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Art of Dying. The central mystery is brilliantly woven into the historical reality that grounds the novel. The various plot strands, at first seemingly disparate, are masterfully woven together and, whilst it wears its learning lightly, it is clear that the novel is a well-researched and immersive examination of the attitudes and realities of the era.

I also really enjoyed re-acquainting myself with Raven and Sarah. For all his faults (and he has quite a few), Raven is an endearing young man and it is easy to empathise with his quest to better himself both educationally and psychologically. Sarah, meanwhile, has lost none of the spark, vivacity, or compassion that made her such an engaging character in The Way of All Flesh, and it was wonderful – if occasionally heart-breaking – to see the developments in her character and confidence over the course of the novel.

The Art of Dying is both a worthy successor to The Way of All Flesh and, for those new to the series, a brilliant jumping off point for entry into the murky, complicated world of nineteenth-century Edinburgh that Ambrose Parry has conjured with their pen. I’m already awaiting Raven and Sarah’s next outing with great anticipation.

The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry is published by Blackthorn and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones,, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 19 January 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Book Tags

The Summer Bucket List Book Tag

Summer might be coming to an end (although you wouldn’t know if from the glorious sunshine we’ve had in the UK the last few days) but that doesn’t mean an end to summery thoughts!

I got tagged in the Summer Bucket List Book tag by the wonderful @_forbookssake some weeks ago but have only just got caught up enough on blog tours, overdue reviews, and PhD writing to be able to take part. The tag was created by @readbytiffany.

Hit the Beach: a book set by the sea

I’m going to go with Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier because (whisper it) I haven’t read it yet.

Terrible, I know and I really must rectify that. It’s one of my Mum’s favourite books and she bought me the GORGEOUS 80th anniversary edition so I have a copy sitting on my shelf. I’ve just never quite found the right time to read it although, with a new adaptation coming to Netflix this autumn, now might be the perfect opportunity!

Anyway, despite not having read Rebecca (yet), I do know that it’s the sea plays quite a crucial part in the plot. The novel opens in Monte Carlo, by the glistening waters of the Mediterranean, and the famous Manderley has lawns stretching down to the sea – and to a seaside hut that hides terrible secrets.

Watch Fireworks: a book that had a fiery romance

I don’t read a huge amount of romance but I do enjoy a good romance subplot in other genres of literature so for this one I’m going to pick Ambrose Parry’s The Way of All Flesh, the first in a series of historical mysteries that follow medical student Will Raven and housemaid Sarah Fisher.

Will and Sarah make for an unlikely couple – he thinks she’s too clever for her own good and her first impressions are that he’s an arrogant little upstart – but they soon realise that their combined intellects will make them formidable foes for Edinburgh’s criminal underworld.

Go For A Road Trip: a book that involves a journey

Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian is one of my favourite novels (and one of the few books I’ve re-read more than once) and involves an epic journey that takes our protagonists from the dreaming spires of Oxford, through Eastern Europe and across to Istanbul.

It’s a glorious romp of a novel that combines a poignant coming-of-age tale with an elegant literary mystery. Throw in a series of adventures, a hidden family history, and a deadly, possibly immortal enemy, and you’ve got a page-turning novel that ticked all of my boxes.

Camp Under The Stars: a book that had you starstruck

The talent and craftsmanship of authors is a continual delight to me but the most recent read that utterly bowled me over was Bernardine Evaristo’s masterful Girl, Woman, Other.

A thoroughly deserving winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, Girl, Woman, Other captivated me with its exuberant portrayal of black lives in Britain today. Told from the perspectives of twelve very different characters, this novel teems with life.

As the characters grapple with the ever-present spectre of racism, interrogate their own sense of gendered and cultural identities, and develop connections that cross the boundaries of generations, class, culture, and race, Girl, Woman, Other masterfully interrogates and explores the multitudes of modern-day Britain.

Marathon Some Movies: a book you couldn’t put down

Again, there are many books that could have filled this category but, most recently, Jess Kidd’s Things in Jars had me utterly captivated for days.

You can read my full review here but, in brief, Things in Jars is an enthralling blend of detective story, personal journey, and magical realism and it’s heroine, the indomitable Bridie Divine, is one of the best literary creations I think I’ve ever read.

Go Out For An Ice Cream: a book with a sweet romance

As I said earlier, I don’t read a huge amount of romance but there is the occasional sweet romance to be found in other genres.

My favourite is probably the one that develops between quiet, self-effacing merchant Jonah Hancock and vivacious, spoilt courtesan Angelica Neal in Imogen Hermes Gower’s The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, a joyful romp of a novel that delights in the eccentricities of eighteenth-century life.

I’ve reviewed this one in full on The Shelf so do check that out here for more details of this fabulous novel!

Picnic In The Park: a book that was a breath of fresh air

Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Inheritance Games came along at just the right time for me. I’d been reading a lot of quite heavy eighteenth-century literature for my PhD and, as a result, was in a bit of a book slump when it came to my recreational reading.

I tend not to read a lot of YA but The Inheritance Games, with it’s combination of clever Knives Out style puzzling, sizzling teen romance, rich-people problems, and family intrigue had me feverishly turning the pages! It was the perfect refresher after long days at my desk.

Again, a full review is available here!

Go For A Hike: a character who conquered an obstacle

I’m choosing another book from my TBR here: Cash Carraway’s memoir Skint Estate.

Whilst I haven’t yet read Cash’s memoir, I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at Lighthouse Books in Edinburgh last summer and was astounded by the obstacles that she had overcome.

Alone, pregnant, and living in a women’s refuse, Cash was unable to vote in the 2010 general election that ushered the age of austerity into Britain. Despite being one of the people most likely to be impacted by the proposed cuts, her voice had been silenced.

Living below the poverty line and trapped in a brutal cycle of universal credit, zero-hours contracts, rising rents, and public service cuts, Cash struggled to bring up her daughter in a society that seemed determined to reduce her – and those like her – to a working-class stereotype. Her memoir promises to be a raw and cutting recollection of these struggles, and of Cash’s refusal to be beaten down and her determination to stay afloat in a world designed for you to sink.

Grill Some BBQ: a book featuring delicious food

As if I could choose anything other than Joanne Harris’ Chocolat for this prompt!

This magical novel, the first in Harris’ series set in and around the small village of Lansquenet and featuring the mysterious Vianne Rocher, involves – as the name suggests – chocolate.

When newcomer Vianne opens a chocolate shop in the middle of Lent, she finds herself at odds with local priest Father Reynaud. But whilst her non-attendance at church and her ability to read tarot lead to her ostracisation by the more devout members of the village, Vianne’s vivacity and generosity soon begins to attract the more eclectic members of the community.

Chocolat is a joyously vivid novel that revels in the celebration of giving in to our desires, following our dreams and enjoying a little bit of what you fancy. Just don’t try to read it without your favourite sweet treat to hand!

Watch The Sunrise: a book that inspired you

Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking was both revelatory and inspirational.

As an introvert then working in an extroverted sales environment, it was sometimes difficult to get my opinions heard or my skillset valued. Quiet showed me that I didn’t need to be controlling a conversation in order to make observations within it, that listening can be as valuable as speaking, and that innovation can come from moments of solitude.

Drawing on a mixture of personal experience, scientific enquiry, and anecdotal evidence, Quiet showed how introverts like me are a valuable (although often under-valued) part of a workforce and allowed me to become at ease with my need for silence and space in a world that, sometimes, feels overwhelmingly loud.

I hope you enjoyed reading my entry into the Summer Bucket List Book Tag and thank you again to Danni at @_forbookssake for tagging me! As summer is coming to an end, I’m not going to tag anyone in this tag myself but, if you do want to have a go at the tag, please do so and please do tag back to this post and to the original creator!

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Books of the Year

Best Books of 2019

Wow. 2019, huh? Certainly quite the year – and definitely one that I would rather celebrate through books.

Because, despite everything, 2019 has been a pretty good year for me reading-wise. Overall, I read 79 books in 2019 – beating my Goodreads Challenge goal of 52 by some way, although not quite making last year’s total of 84 books read.

There were definitely slumpy moments – I hit my traditional summer reading slump right on cue and the commencement of my PhD has definitely impacted on the amount of personal reading time I get to enjoy but, as I prepare to ring in 2020 and look back over my year in books, I got to read some fantastic titles this year.

As always, this round-up is of the books I read in 2019 – so there will be a mix of older and new titles in there. There’s no doubt 2019 has seen some fabulous new books released but you gotta give that backlist some love too, you know?

So, without further ado and in no particular order, I present to you my Best Books of 2019!

The FiveThe Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

Strangely I never got around to writing a full review of this one. This is probably because Hallie Rubenhold’s exceptionally researched and devastatingly heart-breaking biography of Mary Anne Nichols, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, Annie Chapman, Mary Jane Kelly punched me in the gut when I read it back in April.

Hallie keeps her focus entirely on these women, moving the spotlight away from the violence that marked their ends and shining it instead on the tragedy, loss, perseverance, and determination that marked their lives. She gives these five women back their stories and, in doing so, presents a raw and insightful glimpse into the inequality and prejudice at the heart of the traditional Ripper narrative.

A masterful book, powerfully told, this one made me feel sorrow and anger in equal measure – and stayed with me long after I turned the final page.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John CarreyrouBad Blood

Another non-fiction read (or rather listen, as I read this one on audio) that I didn’t get around to writing up a full review for! Which is somewhat unbelievable as this is definitely a contender for most gripping book of the year!

Carryrou’s investigation of Theranos, the multbillion-dollar Silicon Valley biotech startup founded by brilliant young entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes is a compelling and comprehensive account of corporate fraud and accountability.

Combining the thorough research of investigative journalism with the twists of a crime thriller – and with shades of a dystopian novel thrown in at times – this one had me hooked from the moment I began listening. A re-read of the paperback is on my ‘To Do’ list for 2020.

The Lost Man CoverThe Lost Man by Jane Harper

I’ve enjoyed all of Jane Harper’s crime novels to date but, in my humble opinion, The Lost Man is her best yet.

A standalone story that centres of the secrets and lies within a family of remote outback ranchers, The Lost Man is a powerful tale of brotherhood, revenge, recrimination and redemption.

You can read my full review here but, needless to say, this is one crime novel that you should definitely make it a mission to pick up in 2020 if you haven’t already done so!

The Library Book by Susan Orlean43217645

I read a fair bit of non-fiction at the start of the year and The Library Book, Susan Orlean’s account of the 1985 fire that all but destroyed the Los Angeles Public Library, was definitely one of the highlights.

Ranging between providing an account of the fire and its aftermath, complete with some devastating interviews with library workers who were present on the day, Orlean also recounts the history of the library service in Los Angeles in a meditative and powerful reflection upon the power of literature.

In a time when library services continue to be under threat both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world, The Library Book is a reminder of the importance of these well-loved but underappreciated public spaces.

You can read my full review here.

Way of All Flesh CoverThe Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Anyone who has followed the blog for a while will probably know that I love both historical fiction and crime fiction. Combining the two together, therefore, is a surefire way to get my interest.

Ambrose Parry (the pen name for writer Christopher Brookmyre and his wife Marisa Haetzman) hasn’t necessarily done anything new in The Way of All Flesh, the first in a potential series set in Victorian Edinburgh and centring on medical student Will Raven, housemaid Sarah Fisher, and their employer, the brilliant and pioneering Dr Simpson. But everything that is done is done exceptionally well. The plot is intriguing and well-crafted, the historical setting lives and breathes, and the characters come complete with both flaws and foibles. It all makes for an incredibly deep and satisfying read, which has more than earned its place on this list.

You can read my full review here.

The Red Word by Sarah HenstraThe Red Word Cover

I had never heard of this book until I agreed to take part in the blog tour for it but my gosh was it a revelation when I read it!

An intelligent, open-eyed and disturbing look at rape culture and the extremes of ideology, The Red Word is a campus novel that takes no prisoners in its depiction of sorority and fraternity life, radical feminism, and the terrible price that comes from being made to choose between two competing ideologies.

This is definitely no a novel for the faint-hearted but, in the wake of the Me Too movement, it’s a timely and powerful reminder of the ongoing debates that surround consent in modern-day culture.

You can read my full review here.

TamburlaineTamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh

A masterful historical novella that recounts the fictional last days of the life of Elizabethan playwright and all-round bad boy Christopher Marlowe.

It’s the voice that really got me in this one. Louise Welsh brings Marlowe and his world vividly to life on the page, capturing the sights, sounds, and smells of Elizabethan London with brilliant precision. And, at the heart of it all, is Marlowe. Angry, dissolute, cunning, and brilliant, Marlowe lives within these pages.

You can read my full review here.

Fuck Yeah, Video Games: The Life and Extra Lives of a Professional Nerd by Daniel Fuck Yeah CoverHardcastle

So, this one is pretty niche. I freely admit that if you’re not a fan of video games, you’re unlikely to see the appeal of Daniel Hardman’s love letter to the medium.

But if, like me, you love to curl up and travel through Skyrim’s frozen wastes, relished the day you could beat your cousin’s Pokemon into dust, or spent hours attempting that bloody Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, then let me assure you that you’ll love this book.

Dan speaks the language of nerd with ease and his account of his favourite games and the way in which they have shaped his life are both hilariously funny and extremely relatable. Plus the book contains some brilliant illustrations by Rebecca Maughan – the one for the Animal Crossing entry has me chuckling just thinking about it.

You can read my full review here.

ErebusErebus: The Story of a Ship by Michael Palin

I must be really bad at reviewing non-fiction because this is yet another one that I read, loved, and failed to write up.

Michael Palin has that brilliant way of making anything seem interesting. So the fact that I already find historic polar exploration fascinating made this one an easy sell for me.

Erebus tells the story of the ship Erebus, from its construction to its fatal final voyage as part of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. Along the way, Palin writes about the men and women whose lives were marked in some way by the ship, telling the tale of great voyages of discovery, scientific innovations, and crushed dreams. It’s a fascinating tale, engagingly told.

The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective: Secrets and Lies in the Golden Age of Maud West CoverCrime by Susannah Stapleton

If you want non-fiction that reads like a novel then look no further than Susannah Stapleton’s The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective.

Maud West, a real-life Lady Detective, ran her agency in London for more than thirty years, have begun her sleuthing in 1905. But the real mystery soon becomes Maud’s own life. Because who really was Maud West? And were any of the tall tales she told about her exploits even remotely true?

As always, the truth turns out to be stranger than fiction in this compelling account of a unique life.

You can read my full review here.

BeastBeast by Matt Wesolowski

This one is a late entry as I finished it yesterday – but its no less brilliant for being a recent read!

I’ve read and adored every single one of Matt’s Six Stories novels and the latest, Beast, is no exception. Combining a compulsive podcast-style narrative with a tale of poverty, social media, desperation and modern-day vampires, Beast has the page-turning, edge-of-your-seat quality that made the previous Six Stories books so gripping.

I’ll be writing up a full review of this one shortly but, in the meantime, if you’ve not read any of Matt’s other Six Stories books, you can find me raving about them here, here and here!

Looking back, I have definitely read some fabulous books in 2019. Reviewing the year to write this post, it’s actually been a better one that I remembered. Getting this list down to a reasonable length was really difficult and I definitely want to leave a bit of room for the following honourable mentions (with links to full reviews/features where available):

A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman (author), Rafael Albuquerque (author, illustrator), Rafael Scavone, and Dave Stewart (illustrator)

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

The Rapture by Claire McGlasson

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Unlawful Things by Anna Sayburn Lane

Many thanks to everyone who has read, liked, shared and supported the blog this year – every single retweet, share, like and comment has been much appreciated and I do love interacting with fellow bookish types on Twitter and here on WordPress.

Thanks also to all of the publicists and tour organisers who have invited me to take part in some fantastic blog tours this year – I really wouldn’t have discovered some of these reads if it weren’t for you.

And finally to the authors, thank you for writing such brilliant books. The pleasure of a good book never grows old but I’m sure that easy reading makes for hard writing. So thank you for your efforts.

Wishing you all a very happy and bookish New Year. I shall leave you with a toast from one of my favourite writers, Neil Gaiman:


See you in 2020 and, until the next time, happy reading! x








Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Way of All Flesh CoverEdinburgh, 1847.

Will Raven is a medical student, apprenticing for the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson. Sarah Fisher is Simpson’s housemaid, and has all of Raven’s intelligence but none of his privileges.

As bodies begin to appear across the Old Town, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh’s underworld. And if either of them are to make it out alive, they will have to work together to find out who’s responsible for the gruesome deaths. 

Regular readers of The Shelf will know that I love crime fiction, especially a well-turned murder mystery of the classic variety. I also love evocative historical fiction capable of whisking me off to another time and place. So a book that brilliantly combines the two, such as The Way of All Flesh, was bound to be a winner for me!

This is the first novel by Ambrose Parry, a pseudonym for a collaboration between husband and wife team Chris Brookmyre (who’s latest standalone, Fallen Angel, I reviewed a couple of weeks ago) and Marisa Haetzman.

The Way of All Flesh is quite a different kettle of fish to Brookmyre’s usual fare, being a historical murder mystery set in 1840s Edinburgh and filled to brimming with the sights, sounds and smells of the bustling city. This historical touch has been provided by Haetzman who, in addition to being a consultant anaesthetist, uncovered much of the material upon which the novel is based when researching her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine.

The result is a taut historical mystery set in a fully-realised Victorian Edinburgh that features a fantastic cast of both fictional and historical characters. I love historical novels that teach me something about the period whilst also telling a fantastic story and, on this score, The Way of All Flesh, succeeds brilliantly.

The household of the real-life Dr James Simpson, the doctor who pioneered the use of chloroform, is brilliantly bought to life and I was fascinated to learn about the early history of obstetrics and the way in which the first anaesthesias were used to ease the pain and suffering of childbirth. Simpson is a fascinating character, treating rich and poor alike and pioneering the use of both new medicines and new social attitudes, with his open-minded approach to both social status and gender.

Fictional additions to Simpson’s household come in the form of Will Raven; a young medical apprentice with a hidden past and secrets it is vital that he keeps, and Sarah Fisher; a housemaid with a passion for knowledge and ambitions above both her gender and her station. Although the two initially dislike each other, they must soon learn to work together to prevent an unscrupulous medical practitioner whose underhand practices and back-street concoctions are killing desperate young women across Edinburgh’s Old Town.

The world of 1840s Edinburgh is vividly bought to life in the novel. I almost felt I was walking down the streets alongside Will and Sarah, visiting the bedsides of the sick with Dr Simpson, and sitting in the crowded lecture hall alongside the medical students. The contrast between the worlds of the rich and poor are extremely well-drawn, embodied in the character of Will who straddles both worlds without feeling entirely comfortable in either.

You can probably already tell that I loved this novel. It’s a cracking mystery, set in a fully-realised and thoroughly-researched historical setting and packed with realistic characters that you’ll soon begin to care for. Fans of C.J Sansom or Anne Perry are sure to love this series and, as the first book in a series, it’s a great jumping off point for crime fans seeking to move into historical fiction (or historical fiction fans who want to try a bit of crime in their reading life!). Thoroughly recommended, I’m so pleased that Raven and Fisher will return in a sequel later this year, as I cannot wait to read about their next misadventures!

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry is published by Canongate and is available now in paperback and ebook from all good booksellers including Hive, Waterstones (where it’s Thriller of the Month for May 2019) and Amazon.

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me to this blog tour. Do check out other tour stops for more reviews, exclusive content, and more! 

Way of All Flesh Poster