A chilling opening in this absorbing thriller immediately intrigued this reader.  Who is this person bitterly remembering an apparently abused childhood that has forced her to become the person she is, revelling in death, finding these final moments of a life erotic to witness.

In contrast there is Dr. Simpson, a highly respected Professor of Midwifery at Edinburgh University, and leader of a caring, successful practice in Queen Street.  This clever novel has carefully mixed truth and fiction and Dr. Simpson did exist.  Will Raven was one of his students who left to pursue his career in Europe and has now returned to be part of the practice as a serving doctor.

His anticipation of a happy reunion with Sarah is shattered when he learns she is now a married woman and she treats him coldly. But after their close relationship, he sailed off to the continent and never stayed in contact. What did he expect?  Abandoning Sarah was not Will’s only dilemma.  Rash behaviour as a student brought him to the attention of the less salubrious side of Edinburgh and extricating himself from the demands of the criminal fraternity is not going to be easy.

This is a literary thriller and although fictitious it is the well researched historical facts that have added to the tale giving it that extra bite.  The various strands are distinct and so believable, defining the contrasting levels of social standing and the struggles of those who have next to nothing.

The sharp restrained prose takes the reader into the darkest side of Edinburgh two hundred years ago.  The characterisation is so well defined that the people leap from the page, some of whom would not be out of place in a Dickens novel.  A book that preys on the reader’s emotions.

Within these pages there is thriller, history, romance and murder, ingredients that have created a rattling good read.  The tension builds slowly to a nail biting finale with the most wonderful twist and a hint that there might be another in the series to follow.

What a superb team this couple make. Chris Brookmyre is a successful prizewinning author and his wife is a highly qualified doctor.  Appears to be a great partnership for this genre.  This is the second in what promises to be an exciting series featuring Dr. Will and the lovely Sarah.  I certainly hope so as this is a superb book.

Review by Sheila Grant
Personal read 5*
Group read  4*

Canongate hardback 2019, paperback 07/01/2021
isbn 978-1-78689-669-8