I am not the first to say I have read my fair share of books. However, I can not always say that I absolutely adore every single book I read. Being as it is, it is truly a special thing to find a book that really sticks with me that makes me want to share it with every avid reader I know. “The Lost Apothecary” by Sarah Penner is a special book with a storyline that had me completely hooked until the very end.
The book follows an apothecary that was in business in London during 1791 and was dispensing poisons. Who was purchasing these poisons? Women. Women from all social statuses would visit the apothecary and purchase poison to kill men in their lives who did them wrong. The apothecary was not only for hurting others, so if a woman had a simple illness that could be cured they would also go to the shop and receive medicine to feel better.
To dive into the story itself, the book switches from two characters in 1791 to another main character in the present day. Not only that, but the story contains chapters from the point of view of each of the three character’s eyes.
What part does each of them play in the story? Nella is the owner of the apothecary, who dispenses the poisons. She vows to only treat women and to only help murder men, just like her mother who originally opened the apothecary as a healing place for women. Eliza, who is just 12 years old, came to Nella one day on behalf of the woman she works for. This means Eliza actually helped murder the husband of the woman, at just 12 years old. Eliza then grew to have a connection with Nella and was fascinated by the apothecary practice. She became an apprentice of some sort to her.
Then we have Caroline, a woman who finds out her husband, James, cheated on her and runs away to London alone to clear her head, leaving James in Ohio. She had dreams of becoming a historian and attending Cambridge University but left her dreams behind for a stable life with James.
At the beginning of her trip, Caroline finds a vial in the River Thames that is from the apothecary. This is where her journey begins. The book continues to switch between these three characters in each chapter as the storyline progresses for each of them. The reader constantly travels through time, but in a way that is not confusing.
I appreciated that Penner organized it in such a way that the reader would not get lost. “POV books” are not always popular for everyone because of the complexity they can sometimes have, but I promise this will not be the case.
Not only that, but the events in each character’s life make you want to keep reading to the next character to see what happens next in their story. Along the way, their journeys entwine, even though they are two centuries apart. Once you read the book, you will understand. The almost parallel universe between characters makes you constantly turn the page to discover what happens in their two timelines.
There is always something happening to the characters, some good some bad. There are definitely scenes that make you want to scream at the characters before something happens to them. The plot twists are never-ending as well, you will be surprised to see where the story goes. You may be able to predict the ending halfway through, but there will be elements at the end that will throw you for a loop.
This book could definitely find itself in the hands of many in the reading community. It is almost like a diamond in the rough waiting to be found. It is from a smaller publisher so it is a little difficult to market to a large audience, so hopefully this article will convince you to pick it up. If you love murder mystery, history and adventure you are bound to fall in love with “The Lost Apothecary.”