Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received from publisher for review with TLC Book Tours
Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many victims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned—and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.
Desperate for answers and dreading her own engagement to a wealthy gentleman, Allene returns to her passion for scientific discovery and recruits her long-lost friends, Jasper and Birdie, for help. The investigation brings her closer to Jasper, an apprentice medical examiner at Bellevue Hospital who still holds her heart, and offers the delicate Birdie a last-ditch chance to find a safe haven before her fragile health fails.
As more of their friends and family die, alliances shift, lives become entangled, and the three begin to suspect everyone—even each other. As they race to find the culprit, Allene, Birdie, and Jasper must once again trust each other, before one of them becomes the next victim.
Wow! A Beautiful Poison runs in so many different frantic directions, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat the whole time and I loved every minute of it!
I have historically been let down by historical mystery type books in the past, so I tread carefully when choosing to read one. They have tended to move rather slowly and force all the resolution within the last few pages and feel rushed. Oftentimes I find the reveal to be rather expected. I can tell you that in A Beautiful Poison you start out right at the heart of the first murder and it upholds that pace clean through to the very end. While the eventual reveal is brought about toward the end (as it should) the plot carries through to the end with tying up the loose ends with how that reveal affects the main characters. At no point did it feel slow or plodding; there actually isn’t a good point in this book to put it down, so plan to stay up reading it all night! I spent the better part of 2 days reading it and was ready to pick it back up each time I was forced to put it down and stayed up much later than I should have reading it.
In some ways, A Beautiful Poison reminds me of a book I read and loved earlier this year from the genre: A Deadly Affection by Cuyler Overholt. In that book a thread of the story is about trying to figure out a medical condition using only the techniques of that time period, and that is much the same here. Our sleuths spend much time in the medical examiners office (good thing one of them works there or it might get weird!) trying to follow the clues of the deceased to figure out if there was foul play or natural causes in their deaths and what the manner of death was. This takes place in 1918 so the medical knowledge was less than it is now and it was fascinating seeing how they went about procedures and such. Additionally, there was the ever present threat of the Spanish Flu affecting those fighting overseas and eventually in the city of New York that was quite dangerous seeing how that affected their quest. Every step of the way felt true to the time period for me; I was never pulled out of the story feeling that a modern method was being included. The author is a physician also, so I would tend to believe that she knows her medical history!
This novel really covers many areas: medical and science understanding of the time, the affects of WWI on the United States and how the looming threat of another draft affected families, and the vast gulf between those living the gilded life and those struggling to survive. This is brilliantly shown through the three main characters: Jasper, Allene, and Birdie. All three used to move in the circle of society, however Allene is the only one that remains there now because of a series of events that happened to Jasper and Birdie’s families – which are revealed over time. As these three friends are reunited and Jasper and Birdie become involved in Allene’s life again, the differences between them are vividly illustrated. Jasper and Birdie actually have to work for a living and you see much of them at their jobs!! How often does that actually happen in novels? I enjoyed getting into the factory and medical lab with them.
While I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, there were two parts that did give me pause: the beginning and the end! The first chapter or two felt like I was being thrown into the middle of something that I just didn’t understand, which is essentially the truth. The author chooses to immediately engross the reader in the mystery and introduce us more to the main characters over time. It is just a style different than that which I am used to, and while it still was effective, I was confused for awhile. My issue with the ending is almost insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but I wasn’t happy with the outcome of the minor romance plot point. For me, it was like how things ended up in the Harry Potter series, seemingly out of left field. While that certainly didn’t change the outcome of the story, because it was just character development, I was not happy with that.
All in all, pick up this book, you will not be disappointed!
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:
Also by Lydia Kang:
I have 1 copy of A Beautiful Poison up for grabs for someone from the USA or Canada. Please enter through the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway is open through August 12th. Good luck!
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