Ambrose Parry

A Corruption of Blood: 3

""I wish I could give ‘A Corruption of Blood’ more than five stars.""


Edinburgh, 1850 - a city of great wealth and grinding poverty. A city where 'baby farming', where illegitimate babies, of both the poor and the well-off, are bought and sold to avoid scandal, is all too common. And it's baby farming that is the central theme of the book.

Young doctor Will Raven works for Professor James Simpson. He is called to the birth of illegitimate twins in Leith After having delivered them, he heads for the quayside, where a crowd was looking down at a bundle in the water. It turns out to be a tightly wrapped body of a baby. Thus was Raven introduced to the seamier side of baby farming - the killing of unwanted infants. Also in the Simpson household is Sara Fisher, who wants to study medicine, and together they begin to investigate the trade in babies. Raven still has feelings for Sarah, complicated by the fact that he is also newly in love with Eugenie Todd and is expected to marry her.

He attends a summer party given by wealthy Sir Ainsley Douglas who is later found poisoned, the obvious perpetrator being his dissolute son Gideon, sworn enemy of Raven. However, Eugenie persuades Raven to investigate the murder, thinking that he may be innocent. Why is Eugenie's father keen for Raven to marry her? What is her connection to Gideon? And there's a third strand - Raven's feeling for both Sarah and Eugenie.Is Gideon innocent? What about his widowed sister Amelia? How does she fit in? And who is actually murdering unwanted infants?


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This is the third book about Dr Will Raven and Sarah, though it can be read as a standalone novel. It is a fascinating mixture of fact and fiction, testimony to the intense research that has gone into it. Professor James Simpson is - or was - a real person, as were some of the other characters in the book. And the book uses well-attested incidents, such as Professor Simpson's illness, to create a delicious sense of what-happens-next, which makes you turn the pages.. The characters are rounded and believable, and the writing echoes the polished accents of 19th century upper middle-class Edinburgh citizens. Ambrose Parry is the pen name of writing duo Dr Marisa Haetzman and her husband, author Christopher Brookmyre. They have written an enjoyable and thought-provoking novel which is a true page-truer. I wish I could give 'A Corruption of Blood' more than five stars.

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