Edinburgh, 1850’s. Dr Raven returns from his European travels and takes up work as Dr Simpson’s assistant. He hopes to rekindle a relationship with Sarah, but he finds that she’s married someone else in his absence. But the two have to work together to clear Dr Simpson’s name after a patient of his dies under mysterious circumstances. And then, there are more deaths… Can they find out what’s killing people, and stop it, before Dr Simpson’s life and reputation are destroyed?
Although it’s not really clearly labelled as a sequel, this is the second book in a series about Dr Simpson, Sarah and Raven. I don’t think you have to have read the first one to read this, but I think you might enjoy the relationships more if you have read the other. It probably adds to the emotional tension.
The book is largely billed as a mystery, but there isn’t all that much whodunnit. The book focuses more on Dr Raven and how he feels about himself, and Sarah and what she really wants. The romance between them takes up a lot of time too. So it’s more of a romance novel than anything. Honestly, I found that pretty boring. They’re fairly generic characters and their love situation really isn’t all that interesting. Really, Raven isn’t all that nice. I found him a pretty annoying character.
The Art Of Dying is peppered with bits of information about the medical world of that era, and the growing early feminist movement too. These parts are kind of interesting, but they read like they’ve been pulled in chunks from an encyclopedia and dropped into the story. It’s clunky.
The writing isn’t big on place and atmosphere, in my opinion. I kept forgetting that I was in 1850’s Edinburgh. There’s not a lot of description on the whole, really. It’s more concerned with the internal feelings of it’s two leads. Added to that, I found the chapters where the killer talks to us directly, telling her story, really jarring. It’s not comfortable with the change of person, from first to third and back. It really took me out of the moment and the killer addressing us felt quite modern. Added to that, the killer is based on a real case and one that’s quite well known, so I guessed the whole plot of the book pretty early on.
So, this wasn’t one that I really loved. I am quite picky with historical fiction. And I also was hoping for a dark, mysterious story and got a romance that read like YA. I did see on Goodreads that people who liked the first one really liked this one, so if that’s you, I think you’ll like this. (And I hear that there will be another book to follow) This is one for drama lovers who like the era and painful, yearning emotions in their stories. Not a great one for mystery lovers who want loads of historical immersion and atmosphere. But it’s not a bad book on the whole. Just one that needs the right reader.
Read It If: Not for mystery lovers who want loads of historical immersion, and a bit of a slog if you don’t care about the characters, but historical romance lovers will like this one.
Thank you PGC Books for the ARC of this book for review. All opinions are my own honest thoughts.
The Art Of Dying it out now.