Review: The Lost Apothecary

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous 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 evening 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 would 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 vial 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. 

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The Lost Apothecary follows three female characters – Nella, Eliza, and Caroline. Nella is an older woman, trained in the art and science of apothecary for both healing and poisoning. But, she has a rule, never poison another woman. Only men who are hurting her fellow women are to taste the poisons she concocts. And when young Eliza comes to her shop, looking for a poison to take care of her master at her mistress’s bequest, an unexpected string of events takes her life for a turn. Meanwhile, in present-day London, Caroline is on her own journey of self-discovery when she comes across and old apothecary bottle in the River Thames that sends her on a mission to find out the answers to the unsolved apothecary murders that occurred 200 years ago.

While the story has a slow start, by the fifth or sixth chapter is where events begin to pick up and I found myself really digging into the story. I couldn’t get enough of it. I’m not big on historical fiction, but I really enjoyed Nella and Eliza’s combined tale and was more invested on their part of the story than anything. It was fun though to see Caroline go through her own adventure to discover the mystery, while also dealing with her own emotional issues of having been cheated on by her husband. I was rooting for her the entire time to rediscover her passion of history and hoping she wouldn’t go back to him in the end. And in the end, being mistreated by men was what connected these three characters, which I loved.

This book made me feel like I was right beside these characters as they went through their journeys. Something that’s kind of hard to do… to actually transport you to London in the 1700s or even present day. More so, these characters had such depth to them that they felt like they could be real people, especially Nella and Eliza. Honestly, I’m wondering if there might actually be some kind of real “apothecary murder” mystery out there that just hasn’t been solved yet.

After reading this book, I was thinking about it for days after. In fact, I think it might have been part of the cause of my recent reading slump because I knew nothing I read after this would capture me like this book did (the other cause was, and still is, my nosedive back into the Glee fandom). I have to add that this was a book I received from my first Once Upon a Book Club box that I purchased to try out a book subscription box, and boy did this deliver! The gifts that came long with the book were cute and I will be covering that in a post soon.

I don’t think I even have to say that I highly recommend this book, but I’m going to anyway because I highly recommend this book!

Rating: 5/5 stars

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