Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher, Little Brown.
The object I drew out was dusty and mildewed, and blotched with dark rust-coloured stains. It smelt of time and decay, sour, like old books and parchments. The light from the chapel's stained glass window blushed red upon it, and upon my hands, as if the thing itself radiated a bloody glow.
Ramshackle and crumbling, trapped in the past and resisting the future, St Saviour's Infirmary awaits demolition. Within its stinking wards and cramped corridors the doctors bicker and fight. Ambition, jealousy and hatred seethe beneath the veneer of professional courtesy. Always an outsider, and with a secret of her own to hide, apothecary Jem Flockhart observes everything, but says nothing.
And then six tiny coffins are uncovered, inside each a handful of dried flowers and a bundle of mouldering rags. When Jem comes across these strange relics hidden inside the infirmary's old chapel, her quest to understand their meaning prises open a long-forgotten past - with fatal consequences.
In a trail that leads from the bloody world of the operating theatre and the dissecting table to the notorious squalor of Newgate and the gallows, Jem's adversary proves to be both powerful and ruthless. As St Saviour's destruction draws near, the dead are unearthed from their graves whilst the living are forced to make impossible choices. And murder is the price to be paid for the secrets to be kept.
Beloved Poison completely blew me away, even more so since my recent discovery! I got to talking with a Tumblr blogger about the book, Novel Addictions, and she told me something really interesting! I knew that the author was working in Edinburgh, but I didn't know that some mini coffins very similar to those in the book, had been found buried in Arthur's Seat (in Edinburgh) back in the 1830's! There where originally 17 of them but there's only 8 of them left and they currently reside in a museum, and no-one has ever worked out what they where for or who made them but there are some rather interesting theories! She sent me THIS article if you want to check it out! I'm not entirely sure if it is the author's inspiration or just a coincidence, but either way, it adds a nice layer to the book!
Beloved Poison effortlessly pulls you in to London in the 1840's, you find yourself in the book, walking down the streets, moving around St. Saviours. It's deliciously authentic, and each setting rises up out of the London fog, so you can vividly picture the scenes. We spend most of our time in St. Saviours, but we also visit Newgate, a rather chilling Asylum and a dodgy brothel. The settings are colourful...but dark. There's a grim undertone to each setting.
The writing was incredibly compelling, I kept wanting to know what happened next, what the coffins where for, who planted them and so on. The mystery kept having more and more threads added, the plot was definitely thickening, and the deeper you went in to the book, the deeper you went in to the mystery. I reached a point when I was completely obsessed with the book, and I was reading..but my brain was running through theories. All of which turned out to be wrong, but still. I read the book in one sitting because I just couldn't put it down. As I was reading, I was getting a very Dicken's vibe from the characters, but also the general feel of the book.
Each and every one of the characters was fascinating, they where certainly a colourful and lively bunch! Each was brought to life with care and detail, each had plenty of secrets to keep as well as being full of depth. I was never entirely sure who to trust other than Jem. Each had their own motivations when it came to the mystery and each had a depth to them that left you intrigued about them. I thought in the beginning that Dr. Bain was a bit of a douche...but my opinion of him changed a lot over the course of the book, he ended up being not so bad, if a bit of a man whore! There was much more to him than met the eye. The nasty Dr. Graves who had a case of the green eyed monster going on. Poor old Dr. Catchpole whose wife was in love with Dr. Bain, which was kind of hilarious at points, I'm not going to lie!
I liked Jem, Jem was a very good character and incredibly well created. I felt for Jem and Jem had a rather interesting secret to keep, although I liked how Will was on to it straight away! Jem was easy to root for, the more and more you found out about Jem, the more you felt for Jem and wanted Jem to succeed, the resolution between Jem and Jem's father was just...beautiful to me. Jem was an excellent narrator and very intelligent, a joy to read about. I liked Will and Jem's relationship, how Jem was dead against Will at first, but a friendship bloomed between the two as they tried to work out what was going on. I liked Will's well....willingness to help out Jem and throw himself in to solving the mystery.
I had an incredible sense of foreboding as I was reading, as well as intrigue, because of little hints dropped throughout the narrative, alluding to future events. The book actually had me on edge at more than one point, thanks to the tension and the general creepiness of the setting. Don't get me wrong the setting was interesting, but it was incredibly creepy at some points. I was surprised by the book at every turn, every time I thought I'd worked out who the person behind it all was...I was wrong. I mean I worked it out...but like, right before the reveal happened and it was pretty obvious at that point who it was!
Beloved Poison was also incredibly fascinating, because of all of the medical knowledge from the time period in the book. It was fascinating reading and learning about the medicine at the time, the new advances they where working on, how they did things and so on. I was so enthralled by it, as it isn't something I know all that much about. Clearly there's been a lot of research put in to the book, and it's been thrown in to the narrative in an engaging way!
Beloved Poison was a gripping and enthralling read, pulling you right on to the streets of 1840's London. Each setting was vivid and atmospheric and the book had a very Dickensian feel to it in places, and in certain characters. There was a fascinating amount of information on medicine and surgical practices at the time, that's kind of gross, but you just can't look away! Beloved Poison was dark, and kind of creepy, and had a brilliantly created and written plot, with a fantastic mystery that is solved in an incredibly satisfying way, although not without some seriously sad scenes! It's a book you'll be able to lose yourself in, and be completely gripped by. I'm hoping for more of Jem, and I'm excited to see what the author will do next!