Format Hardcover
Publication Date 03/07/17
ISBN 9781681773322
Trim Size / Pages 9.3 x 6.5 in / 400

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The Wages of Sin

A Novel

Kaite Welsh

A page-turning tale of murder, subversion and vice in which a female medical student in Victorian Edinburgh is drawn into a murder investigation when she recognizes one of the corpses in her anatomy lecture.

Sarah Gilchrist has fled London and a troubled past to join the University of Edinburgh's medical school in 1892, the first year it admits women. She is determined to become a doctor despite the misgivings of her family and society, but Sarah quickly finds plenty of barriers at school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and—perhaps worst of all—her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman.

Desperate for a proper education, Sarah turns to one of the city’s ramshackle charitable hospitals for additional training. The St Giles’ Infirmary for Women ministers to the downtrodden and drunk, the thieves and whores with nowhere else to go. In this environment, alongside a group of smart and tough teachers, Sarah gets quite an education. But when Lucy, one of Sarah’s patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers.

Painfully aware of just how little separates her own life from that of her former patient’s, Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers in Edinburgh’s dank alleyways, bawdy houses and fight clubs, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh’s most lucrative trades, and, in doing so, puts her own life at risk…

An irresistible read with a fantastic heroine, beautifully drawn setting, fascinating insights into what it was like to study medicine as a woman at that time, The Wages of Sin is a stunning debut that heralds a striking new voice in historical fiction.

Kaite Welsh is an Edinburgh-based journalist and critic and the Literature Officer at Creative Scotland. She writes a weekly column for the Daily Telegraph and makes frequent appearances on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. She was included on the Independent on Sunday’s 2015 Rainbow List, which recognizes the 100 most influential LGBTI people in the UK. In 2014, Kaite was shortlisted for both the Scottish New Writers Award and the Moniack Mhor Bridge Award.

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Endorsements & Reviews

“What better setting for a Gothic murder mystery than 19th-century Edinburgh? Kaite Welsh relishes these surroundings in her pungent first book, The Wages of Sin.” Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“Welsh’s deeply feminist novel is an engaging, fast-paced tale full of twists and turns. The novel puts on full display the various struggles of women entering academia, as well as women’s class struggles. Readers who enjoy historical fiction that incorporates mystery and female empowerment will love this.” Booklist
“A top-class crime thriller, a riveting social documentary, and a fascinating historical novel. Brilliant writing. A total gem.” Criminal Element
“Sarah is a spunky but historically accurate heroine, bucking the most restrictive traditions in order to comment on them. The first book in what will, one hopes, be a long-running series, featuring a new kind of historical leading lady, Welsh’s debut is an inspiring feminist tale perfect for the modern age.” Library Journal (starred; Debut of the Month)
“Welsh makes clever use of the conventions of the genre while throwing in a twist informed by modern sensibilities. Damp, sooty, moralistic, and sinning Edinburgh is convincingly evoked. A gritty detective story as unflinching as its heroine, rich in well-researched period detail.” Kirkus Reviews
“Gripping. An exhilarating and atmospheric mystery set mostly in the gas-lit streets of Edinburgh. Welsh balances her protagonist's progressive inclinations with a self-awareness that enables her to play the roles that the era demands. The result is a layered, provocative and riveting mystery about Victorian dynamics and womanhood.” Shelf Awareness
“An excellent debut novel that is both entertaining and educational.” Mystery Scene
“A moving, nuanced first novel. Superior characterizations and convincing period detail.” Publishers Weekly
The Wages of Sin has three critical things going for it. First, it's a strong series debut. Second, Welsh is based in the city in which her story transpires, rendering her supporting research spot on. Third, and most important, she is a good writer who has figured out how to plot a fine mystery. Any fan of Victorian-era mysteries who picks up this one will eagerly await the next in Welsh's series.” The Star-Ledger
“I absolutely loved The Wages of Sin, especially the funny, feisty Sarah Gilchrist, a Victorian feminist for modern times. Transported between the horrors of medical dissection rooms, the back streets of Edinburgh, opium dens and brothels, I was captivated, right to the the very end.” Catherine Hall, author of "Days of Grace"
“This debut mystery has an engrossing setting and an engaging heroine. It's good fun and the characters are vivid.” BookFilter
“It’s rare to find a truly fresh new voice in fiction. Welsh’s writing is intense, passionate, and dramatic. She turns phrases until they’re exquisitely wrought, and fashions from the raw material of language something beautiful and unique.” Emma Rees, author of 'The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History'
“A gripping story [and] a great central character. Full of riotous, beautifully drawn period detail.” Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat