Review of ‘In Place of Fear’ by Catriona McPherson

‘In Place of Fear’ by Catriona McPherson is set in Edinburgh in 1948, at the birth of the NHS. Helen begins a new job as Medical Almoner, which is a welfare role within the practice. Whatever the doctors can’t help with medically, will normally fall under her remit. Her family don’t seem happy that she’s even working, never mind with two male doctors. They are of the opinion that a married woman should be having babies and staying at home. There is also the inverted snobbery attitude that she is trying to rise above her station in life, and girls like her from the poor tenements should be working in factories, not a doctor’s office. When Helen stumbles across a dead body, she finds her herself investigating the murkier side of life. It seems people will stop at nothing to prevent scandal, and by poking her nose in, Helen is in grave danger. 

I have read Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Silver series set in the 1920s and enjoyed them immensely. This is very different, in that the heroine is a working class woman, dealing with the harsh realities of life just after the Second World War. The historical aspects of the new NHS fascinated me. Its inception made life bearable for so many people and continues to this day, despite the efforts of some politicians.

The descriptions of Edinburgh in the 1940s felt so real and so desperate. The poverty was appalling still. The use of local language and dialect gave it a gritty reality, and I hope that those reading out-with Scotland will appreciate its richness.

The mystery is well told, as Helen delves into the seedy underbelly of Edinburgh, and finds out some secrets that others will kill to keep hidden. It was tense and compelling. There was also love and loyalty and a desire to make things better. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review.

A review of ‘A Corruption of Blood’ by Ambrose Parry

‘A Corruption of Blood’ is a beautifully written historical mystery, set in Victorian Edinburgh. Dr Will Raven is drawn into a disturbing case when a package is found floating in the Leith docks. Although used to some gruesome sights in his work, this plays on his mind, and he feels compelled to investigate. His skills are further required when an old student adversary faces the hangman. Will he step in and try to find out the truth? Meanwhile Sarah holds onto her desire to study medicine and travels abroad to meet the first woman to obtain a degree in the subject. Will this persuade her she is on the right path? Or should she listen to those who try to put her off following her dreams?

I loved how history and fiction were intertwined, using recognisable parts of Edinburgh and some real life characters to tell an excellent multi-layered story. And we got to find out about the lives of those at the top of Edinburgh society, as well as those struggling to survive in a harsh and unforgiving city. There were secrets and lies so shocking that some were prepared to kill to keep them hidden. I was gripped from the start and felt compelled to keep reading, as bit-by-bit the story unfolded.  I can’t wait to read more in this series. Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Fair Botanists’ by Sara Sheridan

‘The Fair Botanists’ by Sara Sheridan is the standout novel of the year for me. It’s the wonderful story of two women and the connections they make in Edinburgh in the early 1800s. Elizabeth is a widow moving to Edinburgh to live with her husband’s family, and hoping for a better life. Her interest in botany and especially illustration, brings her into contact with those working at the new botanical gardens. The imminent flowering of a special tree has the city fascinated, as has the expected visit of the King. Belle has a secret identity and a plan for the future. She knows her present career will be short lived, so is using her interest in botany to ensure her comfort later. These two very different women find a common bond, forming a friendship that defies society’s expectations .

Elizabeth and Belle’s stories weave in and out with those of other prominent and not so prominent members of Edinburgh society. It is this that captured my attention and did not let go until the last page.  Sara Sheridan builds each layer, and connects each strand, with beautifully written descriptive pose. It’s  a story of life, of friendship and of love.  Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC to review.