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I have been looking forward to this for ages: Chris Brookmyre has teamed up with his wife, Marisa Haetzmann, who is an anaesthologist and medical historian, and they have written a historical medical crime novel: sort of gothic tartan noir.

I'm always suspicious of novels written by more than one person, but I didn't feel that the narrative voice wavered; maybe they work well together or maybe they have a good editor. 

The novel is set in Edinburgh in 1847. Will Raven has just started work for Dr James Young Simpson as he begins to use early anaesthetics. Young women are beginning to turn up dead and Raven is drawn into investigating through a combination of personal connections, along with Sarah Miller, the housemaid. These two are set up as a crime fighting duo for a subsequent series of novels. 

You could roll your eyes at Sarah's proto-feminism if you were so inclined, but I found it fun and credible; she is frustrated by the limitations put in her and also on Dr Simpson's spinster sister in law, and she pushes at the boundaries of what she can do, both personally and professionally. Raven, for me, was less well drawn and less likeable, but I think he can develop in later books.

There's a good amount of humour and a lot of grim medical detail: don't read this if you'll be distressed by the reality of childbirth in poverty stricken 19th C Edinburgh. At times, the medical detail could dominate the storytelling. The scene is set very vividly and unsentimentally. Overall, I think it is a clever departure for one of my favourite writers. (He buys his baked beans in the same place I do, so I might get to tell him!)

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I've been looking at this since it came out  and wondered if I'd like it.  I enjoy the Jem Flockhart series by E M Thomson which seems to be a similar kind of thing but set in London during roughly the same time period.  Then again I wonder if it would be too similar.  I shall ponder further.

Edited by lunababymoonchild
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