Books · Feminism

Book review: The Wages of Sin

I posted about the book launch for The Wages of Sin back in June. Despite devouring the text in under a week, I’m only just reviewing it now. Why? Because my backlog of reviews is ridiculous. Sorry.


The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh

First of all, how gorgeous is that book cover? I know, I know, you should never judge a book by its cover, but surely it gets some points for being pretty? It should

The Wages of Sin follows Sarah Gilchrist, a young woman who has fled London and scandal to come to Edinburgh and be one of the very first women permitted to study medicine at Edinburgh University. It’s set in 1882 which really was the first year that women could do so, and while it’s a work of fiction, it is heavily inspired by real events.

Sarah has a lot to juggle. She needs to manage her studies as well as her aunt and uncle’s expectations. They have agreed to take her in, provided that she is on her best behaviour, and it quickly becomes apparent that her aunt hasn’t given up on the possibility that Sarah will give up on this education nonsense and get married. Meanwhile, her female peers often snobbishly reject her and her male peers do everything in their power to make life miserable for the lady doctors. When she’s not in lectures about medicine or being lectured about the proper conduct for a lady by her aunt, she volunteers at a charitable hospital.

How she then has time to become fascinated by what she believes to be a murder and go dashing off to try to solve it and bring about justice, is the novel’s second greatest mystery. But that is exactly what she does. She finds herself running around the university, several “charitable enterprises”, bawdy houses and dark alleyways, all most unbecoming of a young lady, of course. More than once she has to rely on her wits and her severely lacking good luck to avoid danger.

I loved this book and I loved Sarah. She’s not perfect, she slips up here and there but on the whole, she tries to do good. All in all, she becomes very believable and very likeable. Indeed, there are few characters in the book which don’t feel like real people with their own stories and as the novel progresses their true characters are gently revealed. I consistently predicted the wrong twists or totally failed to predict that a twist was even going to happen and was kept guessing until the end.

During the book launch, Kaite hinted that a sequel was already in the works. I’ll be first in line to pick up a copy when it’s released.


5 thoughts on “Book review: The Wages of Sin

  1. That sounds really interesting. I don’t usually read an awful lot of historical fiction, but historical crime fiction can be fun. I may have to look out for this one.

    Also, I think you’ve got a typo above: I assume you mean that it’s set in 1882, not 1982. I mean, obviously I’m biased against Edinburgh, but even I can’t believe it took them that long to admit female medical students 😉 !

    Liked by 1 person

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