The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh – review

Published by Tinder Press

Publication date – 1 June 2017

Source – review copy

Sarah Gilchrist has fled from London to Edinburgh in disgrace and is determined to become a doctor, despite the misgivings of her family and society. As part of the University of Edinburgh’s first intake of female medical students, Sarah comes up against resistance from lecturers, her male contemporaries, and – perhaps worst of all – her fellow women, who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman…

When one of Sarah’s patients turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into Edinburgh’s dangerous underworld of bribery, brothels and body snatchers – and a confrontation with her own past.

Sarah Gilchrist, sent to Edinburgh in disgrace, has fought for and won her right to study medicine. When not at university she helps in an infirmary for poor women and children. When she is faced with the body of one of her patients Sarah is sure that the woman died by someone else’s hand. Determined to find out the truth, and with no one to help her, will Sarah find herself out of her depths, and in the path of danger?

I was soon caught up in the story, eager to find out who had killed Lucy and why. I was also eager to see how Sarah would copy with all of the adversity in her way and for the reason for her being ostracised from society.

I spent most of the novel feeling angry. Angry at the way Sarah is treated. Angry at how society viewed women. Perhaps to be expected by men of the time, it was the treatment of her by other women that stung the most. Being ostracised from her family for something that was not her fault, to teeter on the edge of society and be beholden to her relatives meant she showed a great deal of moral fibre. Sarah comes across as feisty, ahead of her time. She is impetuous, her actions throughout the book show that. She acts first and thinks later but yet she is also well aware of her precarious position and has an internal struggle to balance what she wants, and what her family require of her.

Whilst this is a crime novel it is very much in essence a study on the role of women in the Victorian era and the tumultuous changes that were taking place at the end of the 19th Century.  I felt that Sarah was finding her feet as a detective in The Wages of Sin. Much was deduced by way of stumbling upon the answer, she often jumped to the wrong conclusion. However, the relationships she develops as the story progresses are interesting. She finds friendship with Elisabeth, who not only offers her respite from her studies and the contempt of her class mates, but also offers her a way back into society. Then there is her burgeoning friendship with Professor Gregory Merchiston. Starting off on very rocky ground it was a pleasure to follow the story as the relationship between Sarah and the unusual Merchiston developed.

Despite spending most of the book annoyed on behalf of Sarah, I did enjoy reading The Wages of Sin. I was transported to another time. I was soon caught up in the social structure of the day, of the hardships faced by all levels of society.  Whilst many of the issues facing women’s rights have now been dealt with it was interesting to compare their roles in society and see how far society has changed, and indeed how similar things still are. The mystery itself was intriguing and whilst I had determined the outcome before the reveal, it was fun to see the story unravel.

Intriguing, thought-provoking, engaging and entertaining. I am very much looking forward to the next book to feature Sarah Gilchrist and Gregory Merchiston. I just hope the next book is out soon.

About the author:

Kaite Welsh is an author, critic and journalist. Her work has appeared in everything from the Times Literary Supplement to Cosmopolitan and she covers LGBT issues for the Daily Telegraph. Her short fiction, featuring roller derby, Greek myths and ghosts, have appeared in several anthologies and she guest lectures on Creative Writing at universities around the UK.
She lives in Edinburgh with her wife, three cats and a lot of books.

This is book three of my #20BooksofSummer challenge.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. BiblioManiac says:

    Love the sound of this- have preordered the paperback!


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