Edinburgh crime novel

All posts tagged Edinburgh crime novel

The Wages Of Sin – Kaite Welsh

Published August 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sarah Gilchrist has fled London and a troubled past to join the University of Edinburgh’s medical school in 1882, the first year it admits women. She is determined to become a doctor despite the misgivings of her family and society, but Sarah quickly finds plenty of barriers at school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and—perhaps worst of all—her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman.

Desperate for a proper education, Sarah turns to one of the city’s ramshackle charitable hospitals for additional training. The St Giles’ Infirmary for Women ministers to the downtrodden and drunk, the thieves and whores with nowhere else to go. In this environment, alongside a group of smart and tough teachers, Sarah gets quite an education. But when Lucy, one of Sarah’s patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers.

Painfully aware of just how little separates her own life from that of her former patient’s, Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers in Edinburgh’s dank alleyways, bawdy houses and fight clubs, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh’s most lucrative trades, and, in doing so, puts her own life at risk…

An irresistible read with a fantastic heroine, beautifully drawn setting, fascinating insights into what it was like to study medicine as a woman at that time, The Wages of Sin is a stunning debut that heralds a striking new voice in historical fiction.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Tinder Press for approving my request on NetGalley to read this extraordinary novel in exchange for an honest review. I saw Wages of Sin initially on Twitter and it ticked all the boxes for me as a reader. It’s a work of historical fiction (tick), set in Edinburgh (tick) in the Victorian era (tick) that involves a strong female lead character (tick) dealing with a mysterious murder (tick). With so much going for it, there is always the anticipation that it might not be as great as it sounds but luckily I had no worries at all on that account. This book was a fantastic and thrilling debut novel and a truly fascinating look into women in science at a time when it was slightly frowned upon in an arrogantly patriarchal society.

Our main character is Sarah Gilchrist, a highly intelligent woman who dreams of being a doctor but has to leave London after a scandal threatens her standing in the world. She becomes a medical student in Edinburgh and has to struggle on a daily basis with not only the derision of the male students but also the attitudes of her fellow women scholars who become suspicious of her past. Sarah works her fingers to the bone – studying, completing practical and written assessments for her training and then (if that wasn’t hard work enough) assisting a friend at her medical clinic, helping the poor, needy and often “women of ill repute.”

This is where she comes across Lucy, a prostitute who comes in begging for help with an unwanted pregnancy, of course completely illegal in these times. She is turned away only to turn up dead on the anatomy table the next time Sarah sees her. Sarah feels devastated at what has happened but also determined to unearth the secrets of her death, especially when she suspects foul play and discovers tenuous links between Lucy and a professor at the medical school. However, she is treading on very dangerous grounds as some people may desire the secrets that died with Lucy to remain buried and may not necessarily welcome Sarah’s interference.

The Wages Of Sin was an exciting, roller-coaster ride of a novel that had me hooked from page one. Kaite Welsh writes with such a canny eye for detail that you can sense everything in the narrative – the smells, the sounds, the sights and it is brilliantly gritty and difficult to put down once started. Sarah was a fantastic character who was flawed but inherently such a good person and I loved her dogged determination in getting at the truth behind an obviously grisly murder. One of my favourite things about this novel though had to be learning about what female medical students had to suffer when studying to become doctors. They went through abominable treatment being mocked on a daily basis for their choice of career and the lack of confidence in what they could achieve was quite honestly, disgusting. Thank goodness times have changed! For a debut novel, this is an amazing piece of work and so beautifully written. I thoroughly enjoyed every page and cannot wait to see what Kaite Welsh does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


Talking About Natural Causes by James Oswald with Chrissi

Published June 27, 2013 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

When Edinburgh police find the killer of a prominent city elder less than twenty-four hours after the crime, they are justifiably pleased. So the murderer has killed himself; that just saves the time and cost of a trial. But a second murder days later bears haunting similarities to the first, even though once more the murderer swiftly confesses and kills himself.

Detective Inspector Anthony McLean is investigating the discovery of a dead girl, walled up in the basement of an old Edinburgh mansion. She has been brutally murdered, her internal organs removed and placed around her in six preserving jars. The evidence suggests this all happened over sixty years ago, an attempt to re-enact an ancient ceremony that by trapping a demon in the dead girl’s body would supposedly confer immortality on the six men who took one of her organs each.

McLean’s grandmother – the woman who raised him after his parents were killed when he was a young boy – dies after months in a coma following a stroke. On top of this he has to investigate a series of unusual, violent suicides and a cat-burglar who targets the homes of the recently dead. But as another prominent Edinburgh businessman is killed, he begins to suspect that there may be a connection between the murders, the suicides and the ritual killing of the girl found in the basement. The same names keep cropping up. He just can’t find a rational explanation as to how that connection works.

As he digs deeper, and as the coincidences stack up, McLean is forced to consider an irrational explanation. Could there really be something evil stalking the city he has sworn to protect? And if so, how on earth can he hope to stop it? This title also appears on the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club 2013. Please see my previous post HERE.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Did you find the characters believable?
BETH:  Very much so. Our main character, Inspector McLean is not really one of those detectives that get a bit tiresome after a few crime novels that usually have an alcohol dependency problem! Instead, he seems quite human and “real,” and although he has had a troubled past, the reader grows to care about him and root for him capturing the baddie. I loved the way the author referred to one of the police officers as Grumpy Bob, and from then on only refers to them in those two words. I would have liked to see a bit more detail on the other characters, but this is a series, so maybe their time will come!

BETH: This novel is set in present-day Edinburgh, how effective was the use of setting to tell the story?
CHRISSI: I think Edinburgh is a beautiful place to set a story. I might be a bit biased there, because I have a lot of love for Edinburgh. I think Edinburgh is such a great place because it has such a lot of history.  So for me, it was an effective setting.

CHRISSI:  Did the plot pull you in, or did you feel forced to continue reading it?
BETH: The opening chapter is a bit of a blinder, and I challenge anyone to not want to continue reading after they start! The plot itself had many twists and turns, and there was certainly plenty to keep me interested, with a higher than average body count. I did feel when there was a slight drag to the novel, another body turned up to speed things up a little.

BETH: On the question of gore, how much is too much? Did this author get it right?
CHRISSI: I think this is a hard question because for every reader it’s going to differ. I think people with a very weak stomach may be put off. But on the other hand, you might wonder what on earth is going to happen next which was what happened with me. I did find the deaths to be quite graphic, but the deaths didn’t repeatedly happen so for me, the gore was balanced enough! For another reader though, the first chapter alone might be too much for them. It depends on the strength of your stomach or the vividness of your imagination.

CHRISSI: Did your opinion of the book change as you read it?
BETH: I don’t think so, it was easy to read, and kept me on the edge of my seat at times, but at other moments I felt like things might be getting overly complicated – it all worked out in the end though.

BETH: How did you find the more supernatural elements of the story? 
CHRISSI: For some reason, the supernatural elements of the story didn’t quite sit right with me. They seemed a little out of place. Luckily though, they’re not imperative to the story (yet, who knows if they will become imperative as the series progresses!) so you can take them or leave them when reading.

CHRISSI: The author adds his original opening chapter at the end of the book. Which one did you think was better? Do you think the opening chapter has enough to hook you into the story?
BETH: Hmm, I liked both equally I think, except that one was slightly more gruesome than the other. As mentioned above, I think the opening chapter has all the elements a good crime novel should have for an introduction to the events to come, and it definitely intrigued and interested me enough to want to read on.

BETH: How well did you feel the author did in writing his female characters?
CHRISSI: I think James Oswald’s strength lies in writing male characters. I didn’t think that the female characters were as well developed, but that might be something that changes as the series progresses.

CHRISSI: How did Natural Causes compare to other books in the genre?
BETH:  James Oswald is definitely an author to watch out for in the future. Stuart MacBride thinks he’s good, so that’s good enough for me! To compare it to other books in the genre, I think it stands well. Great characterisation, good plot, a bit of mystery, a nicely wrapped up ending, and PLENTY of gore-filled Hannibal Lecter-like moments.

BETH: Would you read the next book in this series?
CHRISSI: I don’t think I would unless you told me it was really good. I have nothing against the book, but I don’t feel compelled to read the next in the series.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes, to crime and gore fans.

BETH’s Star Rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

CHRISSI’s Star Rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art