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.
GENRE: Historical Mystery
PUBLISHER: Lake Union Publishing
RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2017
This is such a fascinating story, full of misfit characters from every walk of life during the so-called progressive era. And in spotlighting so many different ranks and stations of post-Gilded Age society in New York, the author is able to also focus on various living conditions, societal expectations and illnesses/problems of the day. From the influenza outbreak to draft happenings and news from the Great War… to the upstairs/downstairs interplay (as well as the beginnings of the blurred lines between the two)… to tenement issues and factory workers … and to the stirrings of new medical and scientific breakthroughs. A Beautiful Poison has a little something of everything for everyone.
At first – to be honest – I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book. After the first chapter, I really didn’t like any of the main cast of characters. But since this is for a tour, I pressed on and soon became captivated with all of the above I’ve already mentioned. The science was over my head (my own limitation – not the author’s) but that just added to the air of mystery and kept me busy trying to figure out what was going on and who was behind it. Turns out, I didn’t have either one pegged. I accused … and exonerated … all of the main cast before it was all over with, only to find out that I had been completely wrong on one count. And if I had been one of the players in this drama, that mistake would most likely have cost me my life.
Bottom Line: A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang is beautifully written and poisonously plotted. Sucker punches and surprising twists weave seamlessly into the riveting narrative – and, while you still may not like any of the cast of characters when all is said and done, you will be fully invested in what has disrupted their business-as-usual lives. Tidbits of history, science, and medicine are also woven into the framework of this novel and may prompt further research by the most ambitious readers. Fans of Sherlock Holmes & Detective Murdoch will enjoy A Beautiful Poison.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. I also purchased my own copy before reading. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4 stars / Very intriguing book!
Reviewer’s Note: Readers may want to be aware that there is a mild amount of ‘bad language’ throughout this novel, as well as a slightly sensual undertone and some brief (and not explicit) scenes of an intimate nature.
Lydia Kang is a physician and author of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland and graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine. She completed her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City and currently lives in the midwest, where she continues to practice internal medicine.