Feast of Carrion (Eisenmenger) Hardcover – 26 Jun 2003
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|Hardcover, 26 Jun 2003||
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Not for the squeamish, this novel concerns a nasty murder committed in the pathology museum of a medical school where the egos are large and there are scores to be settled.
From the Author
Although this is a work of pure fiction, the anatomical and pathological detail is completely authentic and the motives and attitudes of some of the characters are merely an exaggeration of normality.
There is no such Medical School as the one described, but the Pathology Museum in which the murder occurs is based on reality and the intention has been to bring to the reader a taste of what strange and wonderful places museums of pathology can be.
Pathology is the study of disease and, although it has a reputation for being a profession irrevocably linked with the less savoury aspects of human life, it is at heart a problem-solving process and as such is closely akin to the wider world of crime detection. Pathologists do what they do because they gain satisfaction from resolving a puzzle and explaining a mystery.
And, after all, there is no greater mystery than death.
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Eisenmenger skills in interpreting the story that the dead body can tell become invaluable to the attractive lawyer on the defence team. Their interpretation of events puts them at odds with the establishment in general and one promotion hungry CID officer in particular. And then it becomes obvious that the dismembered victim was no Snow White herself.
The detail of pathological description is brilliantly conveyed, not in sterile lab-speak but with a passionate humanity that makes it all the more convincingly gruesome. The medical and procedural insights are convincing and substantial – and it’s a pleasure to be challenged by some unusual technical and creative vocabulary. For some readers, the author’s magnificently embellished and scientifically descriptive writing style will feel too much like hard work, but Keith McCarthy’s wickedly perceptive pen portraits of his characters are definitely worth putting in a little intellectual effort.
This book was obviously written a while ago and, indeed, it has a traditional, ‘English mystery’ atmosphere about it. At times this sits strangely alongside the graphic violence and explicit ‘adult’ encounters – but I enjoyed the overall result.
As well as a convoluted whodunit, ‘Carrion’ also examines the somewhat slimy side of life on the faculty of a medical university – the scheming rivalries, the manipulation of vulnerable young students, the sordid sex lives of almost everyone involved. McCarthy deftly opens up even more disturbing cans of worms; the debilitating onset of obsessive compulsive disorder and how it can dominate lives, or the fragility of the human psyche when subjected to the stresses at the end of a relationship. He examines some deeply disturbing subjects and produces more than one jaw-dropping moment of emotional impact.
As a mystery, the resolution of the plot is so complex that it challenges credibility – but as a densely engaging novel, ‘Carrion’ is immensely satisfying. If you enjoy the nuanced density of Scandi crime, where everyday banality can be so magnificently contrasted with graphic violence, then this may well appeal to your reading tastes too. it's also the first in a series, so if you're converted to the cause then there are more to read immediately.
I don't think I would read another in the series as A Feast Of Carrion was just not exciting enough for me and it was a bit of a slog to get to a so-so conclusion.
Helena Fleming has a career in law.
This is the first book in a series of investigations by the two. They both come with baggage and, at first, I was not sure what to make of the storyline, however, after a chapter or two, it really kicked in. Clever story, well drawn characters and a real page turner. Not sure about the ending of this first book, but I am keen to start the second to see how it follows on. The author does not shy away from descriptive sections regarding pathology, (his own field) , and this will not be to everyone's taste, but a fast paced procedural that will leave you wanting more. Recommended.