The Art of Dying

Ambrose Parry. Canongate, $26 (416p) ISBN 978-1-78689-669-8

Set in 1849 Edinburgh, Parry’s outstanding sequel to 2018’s The Way of All Flesh (the author is the husband-and-wife writing team of Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman) finds Will Raven still apprenticed to real-life surgeon James Simpson. Will and his sometime love interest, Sarah Fisher, who was once Simpson’s maid, join forces to prove Simpson’s innocence after a former assistant and a professor of surgery accuse Simpson of being responsible for the death of a patient through negligence. Simpson’s accusers claim that the woman on whom he performed a procedure (“Something to do with the cervix, I think,” Sarah says) died of a hemorrhage, as evidenced by the bloodstains on the mattress she died on. Simpson maintains that she died of inflammation. No autopsy was done to spare the feelings of the widower, himself a medical man. Chapters from the perspective of the unnamed killer, who expresses amusement that the murder has caused such a controversy, lend dark counterpoint to the inquiry. Fans of David Pirie and Katie Welsh, who likewise have set crime novels in Victorian Edinburgh, will be richly rewarded. [em]Agent: Sophie Scard, United Agents (U.K.). (Jan.) [/em]