Monday, 1 March 2021

Book Review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner (Historical Fiction / Mystery)

Title: The Lost Apothecary
Author: Sarah Penner
Publisher: Park Row
Publication Date: 7 March 2021
Pages:
320
Format:
eBook - PDF
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery
Source: ARC via NetGalley

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.


One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight,
The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating exploration of women rebelling against a man’s world, the destructive force of revenge and the remarkable ways that women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

 

The Lost Apothecary was an engaging read with an interesting premise. The prose flowed nicely, while the world building and sense of time and place were all good. Nella was a delightful character with whom I immediately connected; however, I found Caroline less impressive, her sections less captivating. In many ways, Caroline's part was only really worthwhile, to my mind, in the way it allowed glimpses of the 'end' of the story. Part of me wondered if I wouldn't have liked the book more had it purely been the tale of Nella, with no modern-time interjections. Nonetheless, I did have fun reading this story overall, and there is plenty in it that will appeal to readers of historical fiction who enjoy dual-era narratives. I would give this book 3.5 stars, but it's a 3.5 that's worth rounding up to a four, rather than down to a three.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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