In Place of Fear

A gripping medical murder mystery set in Edinburgh

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Pub Date 14 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 30 Jun 2022

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'Authentic social history at the birth of the NHS, an intriguing murder, a strong and convincing central character, and McPherson's wonderful story-telling skills make this a very classy mystery' ANN CLEEVES

Helen leaned close enough to fog the mirror with her breath and whispered, 'You, my girl, are a qualified medical almoner and at eight o'clock tomorrow morning you will be on the front line of the National Health Service of Scotland.' Her eyes looked huge and scared. 'So take a shake to yourself!''

Edinburgh, 1948.
Helen Crowther leaves a crowded tenement home for her very own office in a doctor's surgery. Upstart, ungrateful, out of your depth - the words of disapproval come at her from everywhere but she's determined to take her chance and play her part.

She's barely begun when she stumbles over a murder and learns that, in this most respectable of cities, no one will fight for justice at the risk of scandal. As Helen resolves to find a killer, she's propelled into a darker world than she knew existed, hardscrabble as her own can be. Disapproval is the least of her worries now.

is a gripping new historical crime novel that is both enthralling and entertaining, and perfect for fans of AJ Pearce and Nicola Upson.

Readers love IN PLACE OF FEAR:
'What a wonderful book this is!'
'I loved [it] ... Helen is another cracker of a heroine from McPherson and I hope to read much more of her story in future'
'Historical crime from a talented pen. Intriguing and compelling in equal measure'
'An excellent read'

'Authentic social history at the birth of the NHS, an intriguing murder, a strong and convincing central character, and McPherson's wonderful story-telling skills make this a very classy mystery' ANN...

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ISBN 9781529337969
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Featured Reviews

In Place of Fear by Catriona McPherson a great post-WWII era historical murder/mystery that takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was really enjoyable.

I was really impressed with this historical fiction novel that was part HF, part murder/mystery. I have never read anything by this author before, and I am glad that I have now been properly introduced.

This takes place in Edinburgh, 1948. I love that this takes place in Scotland. Such a fabulous city that, at this time, seems to be balancing between two different worlds: the old and new. So many pivotal changes are taking place: post-war, societal roles shifting, the NHS, and the author does a great job incorporating this into the plot and also into the backdrop as well. We really get a sense of how the those within all walks of life are living, some easier than others.

Add in a murder/mystery involving our main character, Helen, and you have got yourself a good story. Helen certainly has her hands full with her family, her new position, and the obstacles she faces personally and professionally at the start of this book, and to then find more problems, well she feels it is justified in the instance of being an advocate for those that don’t have a voice or anyone to fight for their own justice. Her intentions are admirable, however the more she investigates, the deeper she goes, and the darker the undercurrent is that she discovers. Can she solve the crime, all the while solve her own life’s dilemmas? I enjoyed finding out.

I liked Helen as she is a likable, realistic character that one cannot help but root for. The murder/mystery was engaging and kept me in suspense. I also liked the overall pacing, plot, and ending.

I look forward to reading more from Ms. McPherson.

5/5 stars

Thank you NG and Hodder & Stoughton for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 4/14/22.

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Because it was based in Edinburgh, I decided to give this book a go and I was more than grateful that I did, as I found it an excellent read.
It is a nice period drama, taking you back to the immediate post war years and although It could fall under the crime umbrella, there is no never ending stream of policemen, in fact they only receive a brief mention.
I had never come across the author before, but her name has been noted and I will certainly look forward to reading more by her.

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I really enjoyed this book that centred around a murder mystery set in post World War 2. Scotland. This book was so well written with such a good storyline and well developed characters. It was full of suspense/mystery and unpredictbility. It was gripping and I couldnt put it down. I really enjoyed it.

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What a wonderful book this is! In Place of Fear opens in 1948, on the very day that the new National Health Service in Scotland also opens for business. Helen is one of the new breed of almoners, trained and employed, as opposed to the financially secure ladies who had done some of this kind of work in the past. It is fortunate that Helen is a woman of character as very few of her friends, family and acquaintances are at all supportive. The general feeling from both ends of the social divide is that she should know her place. Her working class parents thinks she's too uppity and the former volunteer lady is horrified that a girl (Helen is actually a married woman in her twenties) should presume to take on her work. And then there are the doctors in whose practice she is working. They seem to be kind, welcoming and supportive but Helen never feels on an equal footing with them. And she's still struggling to make her marriage to Sandy work; Sandy who has returned to her after years as a POW in a Russian camp.

In the middle of all the changes, busyness and adjustments in the new NHS's first few weeks, Helen finds a body in the shed of her new house. Horrified, she is at first dazed by the discovery but gradually realises that this is more than a cry for help gone wrong, bad as that would be. Helen is unable to forget the dead woman and her doggedness and need for the truth open up a horrible truth.

It was Catriona McPherson's authorship that drew me to this book. Having read her Dandy Gilver series with great enjoyment, I was excited to see her depiction of a slice of seventy-year-old Edinburgh life. And I was in no way disappointed. She brings to life Fountainbridge and the Colonies, just a stone's throw from the elegant New Town but far apart in lifestyle. And she brings to life the wonder of the new National Health Service and the disbelief that medical care could actually be free at the point of need. In Place of Fear is being promoted as a crime novel and there is certainly an element of that in the book. But there is so much more hidden in its layers.

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A fast moving, and thought-provoking tale of murder and mystery.

It's Edinburgh, 1948, and the new National Health Service has just launched. Helen (Nelly) Crowther and her husband Sandy live there with her parents and her sister. She has recently accepted a position with a local doctor as an in-house unqualified nurse, offering advice about childcare, pregnancy and other "women's matters". When the doctor offers Nelly and Sandy their own flat things seem to be on the up. Until Nelly finds the body of a young woman in the air-raid shelter.

And so we launch into a wonderful piece of historical detective fiction. Set as it is, in a time of many changes, and the war still fresh in people's minds, the reader is drawn into a city of two halves (literally) and one in which people are struggling to find their way after so many years of war. The author cleverly weaves real-life events into the narrative, making it all the more poignant. As Nelly works to discover the identity of the body, and how it came to be there, she encounters barriers from many sources.

Nelly is a complex character, a strong, intelligent and independent young woman, coping with a new job, people who think she is demeaning herself as a "social worker", and a husband just back from war and struggling, but who is still driven to bring justice to a lost soul, despite the revelations she uncovers in her beloved city.

The book is almost a social commentary of a country and a city undergoing major change, often struggling to find a way forward. We meet the whole array of old-school doctors, do-gooders, nay-sayers and more. Also, those with more foresight and optimism and whose ambition for change helped Britain recover from the dark days of WWII. It's also a potted history of the NHS.

The author was born in Edinburgh, and lived there for years, which I think is important. Too many authors write about Scotland without having been there or experienced life there. Those of us who know Auld Reekie well, will revel in the descriptive story. Those not familiar with the Scottish tongue may struggle however!

My taste for historical fiction usually lies in the 18th or nineteenth century, but "In Place Of Fear" gripped me, and although I was privileged to receive a Netgalley ARC, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a proper copy! Definitely recommended for fans of historical detective fiction and reader of Ambrose Parry, ES Thomson and Laura Shepherd-Robinson.

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A new crime series form Catriona McPherson is always something to look forward to and In Place of Fear did not disappoint. Set in Edinburgh just after WW2 in we follow Helen Crowther as she embarks on her new job as Medical Almoner in the newly formed National Health service. When a body of a young woman is discovered in the old Anderson shelter in the garden of her new house and confusion arises about who she is Helen can’t let the mystery go.
There’s a lot in this book about the social history of Scotland which I found very interesting. It’s 1948, the country is poor, Helen is working class and the conditions people are living in haven’t moved on much since Victorian times. Helen has a prickly relationship with her family as she tries to straddle two social classes and doesn’t really fit in with either, her family resent her for trying to better herself but she’s not one the upper class either. The central mystery of the plot is also a reflection of this. I liked the mystery I really had no idea where it was going, there were little clues scattered throughout but I couldn’t see how they fit together until the very end. I felt the end was a bit rushed, most notable the relationship between Helen and Sandy and with the little time hop at the end I felt a bit short changed. I was still absolutely furious when Helen had made her peace and we never saw the process of that happen.
I loved In Place of Fear, Helen is another cracker of a heroine from McPherson and I hope to read much more of her story in future.

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Well Crafted Mystery…
Historical crime from a talented pen. A well crafted backdrop that is a 1948 Edinburgh, where huge political changes are underfoot, provides the setting for this murder mystery featuring Helen Crowther - newly qualified medic struggling for her place in society and work - who finds herself amidst murder and swiftly falls into a dark underworld that she never knew existed. Intriguing and compelling in equal measure and a promising start to a new series.

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Helen (Nelly) Crowther and her husband Sandy are living at home with her parents and her sister Teenie in their small apartment in Edinburgh. Having acted as an assistant to Mrs Sinclair (a wealthy do-gooder) during the war, Nelly has studied and become an Almoner (sort of like triage but financially assessing what a patient could pay and then sending them to the appropriate resources) prior to the inception of the National Health Service, now she has accepted a position with a local doctor's practice as the in-house unqualified nurse - basically giving sensible advice about childcare, pregnancy and the like. Nelly is evangelistic about the NHS, albeit as a newly-wed she finds some of the topics she has to discuss a little bit awkward, especially since Sandy hasn't wanted to consummate their marriage since he returned from a PoW camp.

Everything is going well, the dawn of a new era, Doctor Strasser even gives Nelly and Sandy their own apartment which has been recently redecorated and even has its own indoor bathroom. Then Nelly finds the half-naked corpse of a young woman in their Anderson air-raid shelter. In her determination to discover the identity of the woman and the cause of her death, Nelly uncovers some shocking truths about the seedy underbelly of her city (BTW, why do we always say seedy underbelly? Surely we only need to say one or the other).

I have enjoyed Catriona McPherson's other series and so I was delighted to receive an ARC of this new book, which is very different from those series, albeit still featuring a Scottish protagonist (and yes I know that Dandy is actually an Englishwoman living in Scotland).

I'm halfway through this review and I still haven't assigned a star rating because it is so difficult to think of it as a whole. First, as a working class woman Nelly has a strong Scottish accent which peppers the dialogue (even worse than Dandy Gilver and The Reek of Red Herrings), which can present some challenges to the reader.

Second, the information about the birth of the NHS was fascinating, particularly the way in which people didn't know to what they were entitled, and no-one really knew how it worked. But ... in and of itself it didn't have anything to do with the mystery and was maybe a bit too much of an information dump, as in I've done all this research and I must shoe-horn it into the book.

Similarly, the relationship between Sandy and Nelly and the relationship between Nelly and her family felt superfluous in a way, unless of course this is the start of a new series, although the postscript would indicate that this was a standalone novel.

The mystery, well that was clever. well thought through, no obvious clues being dropped but also no Sherlock Holmes-like deductions from absolutely nothing. All the little snippets were there and came together very cleanly.

Overall, I would say I enjoyed this, the new setting, the mystery, and the characters, there you go I've decided on four stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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Set in Edinburgh in 1948, a few short years after the end of WWII and at the inception of the NHS, Helen Crowther is about to start work as an Almoner at a Doctors surgery. She is newly married to Sandy, who’d been a POW for the duration, and is struggling to settle into her new life all round. Then she makes a frightening discovery and she knows she can’t just leave it all alone.

Set in just about my favourite city, this is a really well thought out Murder/mystery with all the atmosphere of the time coming through. It talks about the way the world had been turned on it’s head during the war, the struggle to get back to ‘normal’ and how people couldn’t grasp the concept of free Health Care. Add to that the goings on of so called professional men, at their club, and the use of their power over women, and you’ve got an intriguing read. I loved Helens character, which developed so well, the more confident she became with each passing day and how tenacious she was, intent on getting the truth out there. You feel for Sandy who felt so bad about his part in the war, and as he says, no one calls them heroes as they didn’t fight back. It’s thought provoking and a really good read.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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Set in 1948 Edinburgh, In Place of Fear is a fabulous Historical Crime Fiction book oozing with pristine brilliance, wit and cleverness in every word. From the cover and title to the vernacular to the characters and plots, this to me is the epitome of the perfect book. I was glued to every word and did not want to miss the tiniest snippet. What joy to shut out the rest of the world for a few wondrous hours and escape to another world completely!

Helen (Nelly) is a trained medical almoner in Edinburgh and starts her new job the first day of the NHS implementation in Scotland. Her job is an interesting one in which she counsels and provides information and child/home care. She works with doctors and carries a nurse's bag full of paraphernalia. Her husband and mother also make appearances. But there are other appearances of other sorts, including a dead body in her shed. The twists start even before the discovery and continue to the awesome ending.

There is so much to enjoy about this book but amongst my favourite aspects (other than mentioned above) are the socioeconomic glimpses and realistic descriptions and touches, almost as though Catriona McPherson lived during this era (she did live in Scotland for a time). She writes originally and gorgeously without being twee, cliched or saccharin. This is the kind of book you want to gobble up and savour at the same time.

Historical (Crime) Fiction fans hankering for something truly special, do read this. So well worth your time and focus. I am besotted!

My sincere thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this sublime book, an easy 5/5.

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It's July 1948 and Helen Crowther is due to start work as a qualified medical almoner the following morning - on the day that the NHS is born. She'll be working for Dr Deuchar and Dr Strasser in their GP surgery and her job will be to help patients with those non-medical problems which affect their health. The hardest part of the job will be to persuade people that the services she offers really are free and that they don't have to do anything to qualify for them. Some of the problems will require delicate handling but Helen has a problem of her own which might give her some insight. Her marriage has never been consummated.

She and Sandy are living with Helen's parents, Greet and Mack Downie and Helen's sister, Teenie. Teenie has been making some snide comments which makes Helen think that she's well aware of her and Sandy's problem: it's not going to be long before she tells their mother. Greet's against Helen taking the job as a medical almoner, particularly as she could have got her a job on the line at the bottle factory, which she saw as being far more respectable and suitable. What would people think and say about Helen working with two unmarried men? If Helen takes the job, she needn't bother coming home as she and Sandy won't be welcome.

And Greet is as good as her word. When Helen gets back from work, all her belongings are outside. It's as well that Dr Strasser has offered her and Sandy the use of a flat. They're going to be in difficulties without furniture but Helen has a feeling that - for once - they're actually working together, which hasn't happened since Sandy returned from the German prisoner-of-war camp. There's really only one problem: there's the body of a young woman in the Anderson shelter in the garden.

I've got an admission to make: when I saw that there was a new book by Catriona McPherson, my first thought was Dandy Gilver! I'm always keen to read the latest in the series as it's one that never seems to lose its sparkle. It was only as I started reading that I realised that Dandy was absent but in her place, we had a rather splendid young woman by the name of Helen Crowther. Her feistiness has a coating of common sense and she has a wonderful enthusiasm for helping people, for making their lives better. Sandy is a troubled young man: his main contribution to the war effort was simply being in the prisoner-of-war camp and taking up German manpower and food by needing to be guarded and fed. Not everyone sees this as a valid contribution.

Then we have the doctors. Dr Deuchar is outwardly more friendly, and more understanding of Helen's background but it's Strasser who offers the practical help. The main problem though is the body. Exactly who is this young woman? Why is it that it's only Helen who seems worried about establishing her identity - and proving that she was murdered?

It's a wonderful snapshot of the time and the place. It's Edinburgh in that uneasy post-war period. The was might be over but the battles to be fought are just less obvious. Back-street abortion is the only solution even for a married woman and poverty is endemic if not openly acknowledged in a city with wears its rigid social distinctions with pride. I learned a great deal without ever feeling that I'd been educated. It's a splendid story and one which I finished all too quickly. I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

McPerson is an exceptional writer. I'm sire that you'll also enjoy her Dandy Gilver novels.

McPerson is an exceptional writer. I'm sire that you'll also enjoy her Dandy Gilver novels.

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Set in Edinburgh, just after the second world war. Just as the NHS is being born. We follow Nelly as she takes on a newly created position within that (at that time) most magnificent organisation, as a Medical Welfare Almoner. Well... who knew that was a thing. After I finished reading, I did go into that more and learned a lot! I do love it when a book not only entertains but also educates!
Anyway, she is setting up her stall so to speak when she notices a few things. Dark things. And, not one to just leave it alone, she starts to investigate. And opens up the biggest can of worms possible as things get even darker when a body is found in the garden of the house she has been allowed to live in. She won't believe the reasons and method of death, and so carries on, even though doing so could prove dangerous...
I took to Nelly straight away. With her no-nonsense attitude to life and her refusal to put up and shut up. Wanting instead to make a difference. To take on the world and win. And the compassionate way she cares about her broken "husband" after his war.
I was also fascinated about the birth of the NHS - an institution that is these days pretty broken - and how it was implemented at its starting up and the important job that those like Nelly do.
But it was the investigation that really made it for me. It was well plotted and that plot expertly executed and it kept me on my toes throughout, no second guessing was successful here I can tell you! But nothing came out of left field, it all came together nicely at the end. I just didn't spot the signs along the way.
All in all, a cracking read and hopefully, not the last we see of Nelly. I feel she is a character who hasn't finished telling her stories yet...
My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.

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In Place of Fear is a really excellent murder mystery set in Edinburgh, just after the second world war and at the birth of the NHS. I loved the heroine / amateur sleuth Nelly Crowther and found the place and time were beautifully brought to life. I'd really like it if Nelly featured in a series!

Recommended for fans of historical fiction and for murder mystery afficionados.

Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for honest feedback.

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In Place of Fear is a great read, I love books written in the vernacular and have noticed some reviewers had difficulties understanding the text, which is understandable. I find through using the language as spoken by the characters makes the story believable. Anyway, the story is set in the late 1940s after the war in Edinburgh. Helen is a medical almoner working in a doctor's practice at the inception of the National Health Service. The author focuses initially on the massive changes which was happening after the war years and on the cusp of modern healthcare as we know it today. Helen is married to a soldier who came home a different man and living with her parents and sister in a tenement house- working class people with their attendant issues are her priority and it was fascinating to learn how difficult it was for these communities to accept free health and social care that wasn't charity. Although this narrative takes up a lot of the book, it is important to put the crime and her marital problems into the context of the environment and issues of the time. I thoroughly enjoyed In Place of Fear, it is interesting, exciting and well written. I highly recommend this book and thank Netgalley, the publishers and Catriona McPherson. Five well deserved stars.

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In Place of Fear - Set in Edinburgh just after WWII. Great read, especially with the birth of the NHS and the view surrounding it. Kept me hooked, highly recommend.
Thank you NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton.

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A glimpse of old Edinburgh and the beginnings of the National Health Service. I really enjoyed the historical element woven into an engaging mystery.

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I love Catriona McPherson's historical mystery and this new series is full of promises and starts with a bang.
A gripping and welll written story featuring a strong and interesting heroine, Helen, set in Edinburgh just after WWII.
It's gripping and compelling, the mystery is solid and kept me guessing.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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‘In Place of Fear’ by Catriona McPherson is set in Edinburgh in 1948, at the birth of the NHS. Helen begins a new job as Medical Almoner, which is a welfare role within the practice. Whatever the doctors can’t help with medically, will normally fall under her remit. Her family don’t seem happy that she’s even working, never mind with two male doctors. They are of the opinion that a married woman should be having babies and staying at home. There is also the inverted snobbery attitude that she is trying to rise above her station in life, and girls like her from the poor tenements should be working in factories, not a doctor’s office. When Helen stumbles across a dead body, she finds her herself investigating the murkier side of life. It seems people will stop at nothing to prevent scandal, and by poking her nose in, Helen is in grave danger.

I have read Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Silver series set in the 1920s and enjoyed them immensely. This is very different, in that the heroine is a working class woman, dealing with the harsh realities of life just after the Second World War. The historical aspects of the new NHS fascinated me. Its inception made life bearable for so many people and continues to this day, despite the efforts of some politicians.

The descriptions of Edinburgh in the 1940s felt so real and so desperate. The poverty was appalling still. The use of local language and dialect gave it a gritty reality, and I hope that those reading out-with Scotland will appreciate its richness.

The mystery is well told, as Helen delves into the seedy underbelly of Edinburgh, and finds out some secrets that others will kill to keep hidden. It was tense and compelling. There was also love and loyalty and a desire to make things better. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review.

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A marvellous social history, that educates and makes us grateful for the NHS today, despite all its perceived failings, it is there when you need it. Set in Edinburgh, the year is 1948, and the new health service is in its infancy. People are just beginning to realise that treatment is available free of charge. Okay, you have to pay for a stamp, but there is so much available, and it is the hope of all, that the high death tolls and rampant poverty, will one day, be a thing of the past.
Helen Crowther is a recently qualified Medical Almoner. Think Social worker, but better. Helen works from a two Doctors surgery, to see patients with social needs, and to help them get the best help for their situation. One scenario in this novel really struck home, a young disabled man, was reliant upon his mother to physically lift him up and down flights of stairs to use the privy, and the mother couldn’t believe her luck when Helen could order a wheelchair, and recommended they be rehoused in a ground floor flat. Too right!!
Helen is married to Sandy, an ex POW, and there is an air of mystery hanging over this marriage from the start. Helen is offered a house for the pair of them , courtesy of the surgery, crockery and furniture is also given to them, a very generous offer, but why? The house has a lovely garden, with an old Anderson shelter still there, when Helen goes to investigate it, she finds the body of a young woman inside. This body has at least three different people identify it, Helen is told it has been taken to Glasgow, then the corpse turns up locally, but important people try to prevent Helen from searching out the truth. Gentleman’s Clubs and illegal operations are discovered , and a couple or three bombshells are dropped as the truth is discovered.
This is an excellent and intriguing read. The fact that so many deaths were caused needlessly due to people having to pay for medical treatment was disgusting, and it robbed my father of his brother and sister. His brother died aged 16, from stomach cancer, no money to pay for a doctors visit, his sister died aged 3 weeks due to dysentery, due to contaminated water supply. Only after his parents had been moved to better housing, with a clean water supply and a flush toilet, did everybody’s health improve.
Loved the character of Helen, she was kind and efficient, capable of talking to both working and the lowest classes of people, to help them find solutions to their daily grind. She gave lectures to young mothers, offered advice on feeding, cleanliness and sexual health, young brides in particular, didn’t seem to know what bits went where!!
When I started my nurse training, we had a medical almoner, unmarried, but brilliant at getting problems sorted. Patients needed help upon discharge, were referred to her, and various agencies sprang into action. It seemed to be a seamless operation, decisions were made quickly then, you try getting a social worker today to make a decision without having numerous team meetings, I am constantly pulling my hair out over these who mean well, but don’t do anything!!
This is the first book I have read from this author, and I am well impressed. Even the Scottish dialect wasn’t off putting, it added a gritty realism to this compelling story. I will use this book for student lectures.
My thanks go to Netgalley, and the publishers Hodder and Stoughton, for my digital copy, in return for my honest and unbiased review. I have rated this as a five star read. I will put reviews to Goodreads and Amazon.

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