This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.
‘In a city of science, discovery can be deadly…
‘In a time of unprecedented scientific discovery, the public’s appetite for wonder has seen a resurgence of interest in mesmerism, spiritualism and other unexplained phenomena.
‘Dr Will Raven is wary of the shadowlands that lie between progress and quackery, but Sarah Fisher can’t afford to be so picky. Frustrated in her medical ambitions, she sees opportunity in a new therapeutic field not already closed off to women.
‘Raven has enough on his hands as it is. Body parts have been found at Surgeons’ Hall, and they’re not anatomy specimens. In a city still haunted by the crimes of Burke and Hare, he is tasked with heading off a scandal.
‘When further human remains are found, Raven is able to identify a prime suspect, and the hunt is on before he kills again. Unfortunately, the individual he seeks happens to be an accomplished actor, a man of a thousand faces and a renowned master of disguise.
‘With the lines between science and spectacle dangerously blurred, the stage is set for a grand and deadly illusion…’
Voices of the Dead, by Ambrose Parry (aka Chris Brookmyre and Dr Marisa Haetzman), is the fourth outing for Dr Will Raven and Sarah Fisher.
This time, obstretician Raven is tasked with helping to find a murderer when body parts are found at Edinburgh’s Surgeons’ Hall, while dealing with his complex feelings about being a father to crotchety toddler James, pressure from his wife Eugenie to set up his own practice, and moral dilemmas concerning former foes.
Meanwhile, mesmerist Dr Harland Malham has arrived in Edinburgh, where he plans to set up an institute. Sarah, barred from the medical profession because she’s a woman, persuades him to take her on as a pupil, despite Raven’s scepticism about the technique.
However, she soon becomes concerned that Malham is harming the credibility of mesmerism by playing the showman.
I’ve followed this series right from the start, and Voices of the Dead is a great reminder of why I love it so much and always look forward to the next instalment.
As ever, it was great to be reunited with Raven and Sarah, as well as the cast of supporting characters, most notably Dr Henry Littlejohn, and Dr Simpson and his household.
Both principal characters have developed so much over the course of the series. Despite being more measured and mature these days, though, Raven remains a trouble magnet. This means there’s always something happening to keep you turning the pages.
The variety of personalities coming into contact with one another over the course of the book facilitates the delightful flashes of dark humour I’ve come to expect from these authors. The characters’ surroundings are vividly realised, and the authors keep the historical and social context in sight at all times.
Reading these books is always an education, and I was absolutely fascinated by the information about, and history of mesmerism that comes out naturally in the characters’ conversations with one another, alongside details of other contemporary medical fashions and advances.
The centrality of the (non-surgical) theatre to the story is an inspired choice that highlights how mesmerists, mediums, and magicians share techniques. Plus, as I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I always love reading about the glamorous surface and shabby underside of Victorian entertainment.
A couple of other thought-provoking themes that Raven in particular wrangles with are self-reinvention – encompassing whether the intentions behind it are genuine, whether it’s truly possible for a person to change and “escape their fate”, and whether they can/should be forgiven for the actions of their previous self – and the importance of getting to know someone and their circumstances, rather than judging them.
Voices of the Dead is a rich, fascinating, and tense addition to a series I love.