Friday, 29 June 2018

Beloved Poison by E. S. Thomson

"The object I drew out was dusty and mildewed, and blotched with dark rust-coloured stains. It smelt of time and decay, sour, like old books and parchments.. The light from the chapel's stained-glass window blushed red upon it, and upon my hands, as if the thing itself radiated a bloody glow."

Ramshakle and crumbling, trapped in the past and resisting the future, St Saviour's Infirmary awaits demolition. Within its stinking wards and cramped corridors, the doctors bicker and fight. Ambition, jealousy and hatred seethe beneath the veneer of professional courtesy. Always an outsider, and with a secret of her own to hide, apothecary Jem Flockhart observes everything, but says nothing.

And then six tiny coffins are uncovered, inside each a handful of dried flowers and a bundle of mouldering rags. When Jem comes actross these strange relics hidden inside the infirmary's old chapel, her quest to understand their meaning prises open a long-forgotten past - with fatal consequences.

Whilst this has clearly been written for a twenty-first century audience there are some definite echoes of Charles Dickens in this delightful historical crime novel. For instance, there is Mrs Roseplucker, the brothel keeper and Joe Silks, the handkerchief thief; all names worthy of the great man himself.

The first in a series of  three books (and I am hoping there will be more) featuring Jem Flockhart, these books ooze with the sights, sounds and smell of nineteenth century London. The author's descriptive prose has the ability to transport the reader to the time and place in which the book is set.

Ms Thomson skillfully builds the tension in her plot with indicatory sentences being woven throughout the text. This created a tension and excitement and made this book a real page turner. I read this while I was on holiday and there was more than one night that I sat up reading well past the time when the rest of my holidaying companions were asleep in their beds.

I am very much looking forward to reading Dark Asylum which is the next book in the series and I hope you will join me.

ISBN: 978 1472122292

Publisher: Constable

About the Author:

E. S. Thomson was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire. She has a PhD in the history of medicine and works as a university lecturer in Edinburgh. She was shortlisted for the Saltire First Book Award and the Scottish Arts Council First Book Award. Elaine lives in Edinburgh with her two sons.


  1. Great review Anne! I'll be checking my library for this one.

    1. I am looking forward to reading the rest in the series now.