Thanks to Canongate and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.
In my reading experience Canongate tend to be pretty discerning when it comes to whom they publish. Whenever they have an upcoming book release I tend to be on it like white on rice and this book was no exception.
I enjoy reading about some of the more ghoulish things in life and Edinburgh is a city which history has that in spades. I went to universiin Edinburgh and lived there for five years so that added an extra layer of interest for me.
This book follows Will Raven, a young medical student who is apprenticed to a brilliant doctor. In amongst a healthy dollop of medical history, we also have a murder mystery which our intrepid hero seeks to resolve.
Despite the often gruesome subject matter this novel felt like a love letter to Edinburgh. The contrast between the old and new town was captured perfectly and the cameos from some of the famous persons of the day such as James Syme, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson was a nice touch.
Sarah was a plucky, charismatic and intelligent heroine, constrained by the limitations of her gender in 19th century Victorian society. Her story arc added a bit of much appreciated feminism to the narrative.
My main issue with this novel was a personal one. I have a scattershot approach to trigger warnings but the descriptions of child loss, pregnancy complications, stillbirth, miscarriages and abortions in this novel almost caused me to give up on it at various points. Just something to be aware of if any of these issues have affected you.
The pace of the narrative also felt a bit glacial at times and the whole seedy Victorian medical/murder mystery thing is starting to get a bit tired. I guessed the twist relatively early on too which dulled my enthusiasm somewhat.
Overall, this novel is absolutely fine. I didn’t love it but it’s well written and I enjoyed the Edinburgh setting.