Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Lost Apothecary, by Sarah Penner (author), Lorna Bennett (narrator), Lauren Anthony (narrator), & Lauren Irwin (narrator)

Harlequin Audio, ISBN 9781488210761, March 2021

In 1790s London, Nella is an apothecary, a very specialized apothecary, who dispenses carefully disguised poisons to women who want to remove the oppressive or abusive men in their lives.

Eliza Fanning is her newest client, a twelve-year-old girl sent by her mistress, Mrs. Amwell, for poison for Mr. Amwell, who has molested female servants in the past, and has started to take an interest in Eliza.

In the present day, Caroline Parcewell is in London on what was supposed to be a celebratory tenth wedding anniversary trip with her husband. Instead, her husband is home in Ohio, and Caroline is in London on her own, contemplating the possible end of her marriage. 

On an unplanned mudlarking outing on the banks of the Thames, she finds an odd glass bottle, with nothing to identify it but a little engraving of a bear on all fours. A little initial research doesn't tell her where the bottle comes from, but does lead her to hints of the mystery of the late 18th century "apothecary killer," never caught or conclusively identified. Caroline's interest is caught, awakening dreams of doing historical research into ordinary lives she abandoned after her marriage.

The story is told in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of each of these two women and a child. Each narrative voice is clear and distinct, and the narrators do justice to them. We come to clearly understand Nella's choices. Caroline's struggle over her marriage and over her rediscovered dream of historical research into ordinary lives is real and palpable and moving. Eliza's efforts to understand the situation she's been thrust into, and arrive at the right choices and decisions, and even to understand her own body as it changes, are moving.

It's a thoroughly engrossing story, and I highly recommend it.

I bought this audiobook.

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