Thanks to NetGalley and Park Row for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: March 2nd, 2021
Synopsis: A female apothecary secretly poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a 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 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 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 bottle 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. (Goodreads)
The Lost Apothecary is a solid debut by Sarah Penner that seamlessly travels from 1791 to the present day, and connects these three strong characters in surprising ways. I’ll be honest and say that it was Nella’s and young Eliza’s lives and their developing relationship that captured my attention the most, but I enjoyed Caroline’s mudlarking and sleuthing in the present day as well. There were a couple of things that prevented this from being a perfect read for me. The first, is that I could have done without the drama between Caroline and her unlikable husband. While I realize that the twist with them in the last half of the book, is coincidentally connected in more than one way to the events of the past, I thought for the most part, their relationship to be an annoying and unnecessary distraction. My second issue, was that in both timelines, obstacles and hindrances were cleared up a little too quickly and neatly. However, these are very minor dislikes, and overall I quite enjoyed this book from beginning to end. The Lost Apothecary is a captivating tale about secrets, friendships, and three women determined to control their own fates.