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Jul 11, 2021

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
Park Row Books March 2, 2021 

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.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.

This book caught my eye because of the cover, all of my favorite colors splendidly splashed together. The book is actually much more dark than the cover as it deals with murders by poison for the historical timeline and a crumbling marriage for the present day.

While this present day Caroline was obnoxiously irritating with how she was dealing with her husband James, I liked having someone who was unraveling the mystery of the lost apothecary from 200 years earlier at the same time as the reader.

The historical characters of Eliza and Nella the Apothecary with their new relationship was compelling and sweet even if they were keen on poisoning all men who were not faithful. The only thing where I felt where it missed the mark was at the promised magickal/mystical theme as that was just skimmed over and not very insightful. 

This was less A Discovery of Witches series and a lot more 18th century suspense and mystery, with an attempt at historical fiction, but it still pulls off the dual time line feature. It is a very short read, (perhaps a blessing..?) and I am very surprised that this is selected for a TV adaptation by Fox which definitely has potential.

Even though the present timeline's characters are adults I really feel like this should be be marketed for YA as it is not as fleshed out as expected for what it should be for historical fiction time slips. I read this over a two day span, I would still recommend it for an intriguing weekend read.

*Also want to mention that the eBook was better than the Audio, I tried to start it on audio but the narrator for Caroline made me hate her to start with.