Ambrose Parry (aka husband and wife team Chris Brookmyre and Dr Marisa Haetzman) is back in 19th Century Edinburgh for a fourth time in their Raven, Fisher and Simpson mystery series in Voices of the Dead. Once again Parry serves up an engaging story in a fascinating and well realised milieu.
A few years after the events of A Corruption of Blood, Will Raven is trying to connect with his toddler while his wife is pregnant for a second time. He is still working for Dr Simpson but is under pressure from his wife and her family to establish his own practice. Meanwhile Sarah Fisher is also still working in the practice having found pathways to a formal medical career as a woman blocked. Raven is brought in on the quiet when a dismembered leg is found in the office of a leading surgeon. After the discovery of more remains, the city, stoked by an alarmist newssheet, is on the hunt for a murderous thespian. Meanwhile Fisher has become interested in the art of mesmerism and the potential for it to revolutionise medicine. Throw in a man who claims to speak to the spirit world and a story develops with themes of performance, misdirection, charlatanry and reinvention.
Parry gives readers a real feel for Edinburgh of the late 19th century. While its characters feel modern, they also feel true to their time and its attitudes. The characters themselves continue to grow and develop with every book. Raven, in particular has to deal with some moral and personal issues as he tries to come to terms with being a father and contemplate the need to strike out on his own. While Fisher finds herself drawn in to a new field of treatment that feels like it will allow her to get around the boys club that is medicine.
With characters who readers care about ,living in an interesting time and place, and well-constructed mysteries Voices of the Dead is another great entry in what has become an unmissable historical crime series.