The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry review – pastiche Victoriana

An anaesthetist’s assistant and a plucky housemaid team up in a historical crime caper from husband-and-wife team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman

“Ambrose Parry” is the crime novelist Chris Brookmyre and his wife Marisa Haetzman, an anaesthetist. So it is unsurprising that James Simpson, who pioneered the use of chloroform in 19th-century Edinburgh, has a role in the book, and that it has a grand guignol thriller plot. Though it will carry you perfectly through a lazy afternoon, it suffers from many of the defining characteristics of pastiche Victoriana: it has to have something old, something new, something borrowed and something in 50 shades of blue. “No decent story ought to begin with a dead prostitute,” declares chapter one – and yet, behold, it does.

Will Raven, an apprentice to Simpson, has a dark secret – and not only that he fled the scene where he found his lover dead. ...