By E. S. Thomson
Publisher: Pegasus Books (2016)
Publisher: Pegasus Books reprint (November, 2017)
A Jem Flockhart Mystery (Book #1)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
There had been an apothecary named Flockhart at St. Savior’s Infirmary for over one hundred years. It is a male profession: Jem Flockhart’s father, lacking a son, turned his daughter into his replacement. Her mother had died at her birth, and her twin brother did not survive. Her father blamed Jem for the loss, and he sent her away for seven years to be raised as a boy.
Satisfied that she is ready to take her brother’s role, he brings her back to Saint Savior’s. Now she’s doing her best to meet his demands. She is as capable as any man, perhaps even better. She has been accepted as a male by all who cross her path, but when she finds a young man making himself at home in her room. He claims he has been sent to oversee the removal of the bodies buried in the hospital’s cemetery, and that her father told him he could share the room. Horrified, she tries to hide the rags that she uses monthly. Women who pretend to be male still have biological issues.
Her father has been in failing health for some time, and his memory is not as sharp as it used to be. She puts his odd request down to that, and there is nowhere else for the young man to go, so she makes the best of the situation. Despite her qualms, she and Will Quartermain become friends. During the weeks Will oversees the demolition of the old hospital, the two find they are kindred spirits.
Jem makes a horrifying discovery while she is visiting the ancient hospital chapel. Hidden in the walls are six tiny coffins, each containing a bundle of rags, and something even more disturbing. She confides in Will. Both realize something evil had happened within the hospital’s walls. Together they begin to investigate the mystery, putting themselves in grave danger. Someone does not want the secrets buried within the walls of St. Saviour to be exposed to the bright light of day.BELOVED POISON is a treasure both as a historical novel and a satisfying mystery. Victorian London is revealed in all its gritty detail, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Readers will feel that they are walking the streets of the city, seeing the turmoil and chaos of the slums, watching Dickensian characters go about their day, and smelling oh so many smells, most of them unpleasant: raw sewage on the unpaved roads, rotting meat, decaying corpses of animals, and worse. Jem and Will return in the latest novel, DARK ASYLUM, available now. Highly recommended.
Copyright © 2017 Shirley Wetzel. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!