In this stunning debut by Sarah Penner, The Lost Apothecary weaves the reader between present day and the late 18th-century London. Part mystery, part women’s fiction, part history, I found this to be a page-turner. Particularly intriguing is the apothecary herself, Nella, who provides poisons to women whose men done ’em wrong. Her body is rebelling against her, in large part, she believes, because of her guilt about her work. Basically, Penner turns a serial killer into a sympathetic character, which is no easy feat.
Caroline, the protagonist of the present-time story, has arrived in London for what would have been her tenth anniversary…but arrives alone. Like many women, she allowed life and marriage to take over and forgot her own dreams. On an outing, she finds an apothecary bottle that awakens her interest in history. Soon she is sleuthing the past to learn more about the woman who owned that bottle.
Nella keeps a record of every woman who came to her shop, including their name, the person who is to be poisoned, and the substance used. It is her way of keeping these women from disappearing entirely. Yet she herself was to disappear before Caroline rediscovered her.
As a side note, my upcoming novel, The Factory Girl and the Fey, also tells of a woman who disappeared from history, and is my attempt to give her the recognition she deserves. Perhaps that is why this story intrigued me so much, the pain of having women fall into obscurity.
I could not put this book down. Enjoy!
If you enjoy this blog, please consider purchasing one or more of my books. The Factory Girl and the Fey, a historical fantasy, is coming this fall, so stay tuned for more details! For more info on my contemporary women’s fiction, click here.
Starting in June, I’ll add a second blog post about topics not related to book reviews. Stay tuned!