Beloved Poison by E S Thomson

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Beloved Poison by E S Thomson

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A captivating ride through a dark, dank, and thoroughly vivid world. E.S. Thomson has created a compelling new crime solver in a wonderfully populated Dickens-esque world
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: March 2016
Publisher: Constable
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1472122278

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St Savior's is a crumbling infirmary – its walls stuffed with ambition, jealousy and hatred. Six tiny coffins, each containing dried flowers and mouldering rags, are uncovered inside the decaying chapel. A silent outsider, with secrets of her own to hide, is determined to discover the truth. And in a trail that leads from the bloody worlds of dissecting table and operating theatre, through to the squalor of Newgate Prison and its gallows, Jem Flockhart faces a ruthless adversary. As the destruction of St Savior's looms, the dead are unearthed, the living are forced into impossible decisions – and murder is the price for secrets to be kept…

Historical crime thrillers are always popular – the huge success in recent years of C.J. Sansom's Shardlake series sparking a rush on them being released in recent years. Some are brilliant, some not so much – and many tend to be set in the Tudor period. It's an interesting time period for sure, but there definitely seems to be a bit of an oversaturation in that area currently.

E.S. Thomson has picked a wholly different era for her debut though – this is a grim and gritty piece of Victoriana, and the setting works incredibly well. The reader doesn't get a gradual sense of time and place over the course of a few chapters – they are plunged in on day one, with some wonderfully Victorian names intermingling with the rich stench of damp and decay that pervades St Savior's, making this a wonderfully engrossing and evocative read. The cast of characters are by equal measure compelling and grotesque, giving a wonderfully Dickens-esque feel to proceedings, complimented by an array of fantastically well-named characters appearing at every turn. Of course, all this wonderful world building would be wasted without a good plot, but E.S. Thomson has gifted us that too. Like all good crime thrillers, one becomes as invested in the mystery as they are in the fates of the leading characters, with a strong plot that races to a heady climax.

Jem Flockhart is a brilliantly distinctive and individual name to add to the ranks of great fictional investigators – and I'm sure that any other readers of Beloved Poison will be as excited for her return as I most certainly am. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

For further reading I would recommend The First Horseman by DK Wilson. It's one of the slew of Tudor historical crime novels I previously mentioned, and a very, very good one – similar to Beloved Poison in that it shares a compelling lead and has a brilliant sense of time and place

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