Monday, February 26, 2024

Aubrey Nye Hamilton Reviews: The Silent House of Sleep by Allan Gaw

Allan Gaw is a Scottish physician turned writer. Most of his career has been in academic medicine as a pathologist and clinical researcher. He worked for the National Institute for Health Research at the University of Leeds and was Professor & Director of the Clinical Research Facility at Queen’s University Belfast. He previously worked at Glasgow University and the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas as well as the NHS. In addition to his twenty-five non-fiction books, he has published over two hundred articles. He now focuses on poetry and fiction. The Silent House of Sleep (SA Press, 2023) is his debut novel and is the first in a new historical medical mystery series.

Told through dual timelines in the early days of World War I and in the late 1920s, this first book about Dr. John Archibald Cuthbert, senior pathologist at St. Thomas’s Hospital and senior police surgeon with the Metropolitan Police, shows his path to becoming the pre-eminent pathologist of his day and his work on a particularly puzzling homicide case.

Cuthbert’s brutal experiences in the trenches and the hospital tents of France are realistically and graphically related, along with the resultant PTSD that afflicts Cuthbert in the present. Cuthbert’s hard-won knowledge informed his later work as a pathologist and a police surgeon. Gaw’s notes show he used a number of primary sources in writing these chapters, framing them with the immediacy, the terror, and the misery of the battlefield.

In this first investigation Freddie Dawson had been missing for three months by the time his body was found. His parents had given up on seeing him alive again and the police had stopped looking for him. The post-mortem showed his remains were interred with those of another corpse. The description of the painstaking autopsy is clinical in its detail.

Parallel to the forensic analysis, Detective Inspector Franklin interviewed again everyone who might have seen Dawson before he disappeared and combed the missing person records to identify the other corpse. Franklin’s thorough police work and Cuthbert’s scientific research meld into a complicated explanation for the two deaths, a particularly vicious one that will make some readers queasy.

Gaw has created an original character in Cuthbert and has given him some fine support in his Belgian housekeeper and his eager assistant with the airhead fiancé. Both of these individuals offer potential for intriguing subplots in future books. Well-written and structured, the dual timeline was handled skillfully. I skipped some of the medical detail as it was TMI; Gaw never lets the reader forget that he is a doctor. Fans of Kathy Reich and Charles Todd will be especially interested in this series.



·         Publisher: SA Press (November 30, 2023)

·         Language: English

·         Paperback: 298 pages

·         ISBN-10: 0956324266

·         ISBN-13: 978-0956324269

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Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2024


Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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