Having loved Brian Ruckley's The Godless World trilogy, I was keen to read his latest, The Edinburgh Dead. Mainly because it seemed to be a strange hybrid between history, horror, and science fiction.
In the end, Ruckley's The Edinburgh Dead is a dark, gritty, and atmospheric gothic tale that should satisfy any speculative fiction fans looking for something different.
Here's the blurb:
In the starkly-lit operating theaters of the city, grisly experiments are being carried out on corpses in the name of medical science. But elsewhere, there are those experimenting with more sinister forces.
Amongst the crowded, sprawling tenements of the labyrinthine Old Town, a body is found, its neck torn to pieces. Charged with investigating the murder is Adam Quire, Officer of the newly- formed Edinburgh Police. The trail will lead him into the deepest reaches of the city's criminal underclass, and to the highest echelons of the filthy rich.
Soon Quire will discover that a darkness is crawling through this city of enlightenment - and no one is safe from its corruption.
The Edinburgh Dead is a powerful fusion of gothic horror, history, and the fantastical.
It's a new age of enlightenment for Edinburgh. Familiar with the premise of this tale since he was born there, I feel that the author captured the essence of Edinburgh of 1828 almost perfectly. Discoveries are made in both the scientific and the medical fields, yet there is a darker side to this time of changes. Ruckley knows how to set the mood, and Edinburgh almost becomes a character in its own right.
The characterization mostly focuses on Adam Quire, down-on-his-luck officer in the Edinburgh Police. Not the most flamboyant and likeable of characters, Quire nonetheless remains a protagonist to root for. He doesn't have it easy, but it is a joy to follow Quire's investigation and his morbid discoveries. The brief POV sections featuring the supporting cast help flesh out the story and give us the opportunity to witness events unfold via different perspective.
The presence of infamous historical figures like Burke and Hare, men who murdered innocent people to supply Edinburgh's anatomy schools with fresh corpses is a nice touch. But though The Edinburgh Dead is based on true events, Ruckley added various fictional elements (mostly from the dark fantasy and horror subgenres). And it's the mix of all those ingredients that gives this novel its flavor.
The book doesn't feature a fast-moving narrative, however. To be honest, the rhythm is rather slow. And yet, at no point in the story was I lost or bored. I found Brian Ruckley's depiction of Edinburgh and this age of enlightenment to be fascinating, and there is not a dull moment as we follow Adam Quire's ups and downs during his delicate investigation.
The Edinburgh Dead is a dark historical yet supernatural tale which should satisfy even jaded genre readers.