My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Publication Date: September 1st, 2016
Point of View: 1st Person & Feminine
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: New Adult, Historical Mystery, Victorian
Ramshackle 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 across 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.
In a trail that leads from the bloody world of the operating theatre and the dissecting table to the notorious squalor of Newgate and the gallows, Jem’s adversary proves to be both powerful and ruthless. As St Saviour’s destruction draws near, the dead are unearthed from their graves whilst the living are forced to make impossible choices. And murder is the price to be paid for the secrets to be kept.
BELOVED POSION, YOU KNOCKED MY SOCKS OFF.
Although this is a mystery/historical novel, to me it felt very character-driven. The mystery is indeed mysterious and quite intriguing, but I did not care for it as much as I cared for Jem.
Our heroine. Jem is a woman but, since women in the 19th Century are not considered fit to do a man’s job, she has to pretend to be Mr Flockhart, so she can remain a surgeon. But it was never her choice: it was her father’s.
And so she has to pretend to be someone she is not… But here comes another scandal! Not only is she a woman in disguise and a surgeon, but she is also lesbian! Oh dear, so many secrets. I felt so much compassion and admiration toward her.
She is such a well-built character. There is incredible dept to her, and her ‘‘voice’’ is a strong one, though a vulnerability can also be detected. She may be pretending to everyone else, but not to us, not to the readers.
I’ve only mentioned Jem so far, and that’s because I simply LOVE her, but there are multiple other interesting characters. Will is one of them (anyone caught the link with The Infernal Devices?) They’re a team, working alongside one another to solve the murder cases. He is too sweet for his own good. I wish we knew more about him, however.
I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this novel, considering that I didn’t read it for the mystery at all. Every time I opened the book, the first thought that came to my mind was Jem, not murders or deaths or poison or mystery. JEM. But of course, Thomson’s writing is phenomenal, so it’s not only the characters that amazed me.
It’s with a huge question mark in my mind that I close this book. What is going to happen to Jem? And Will? And Jem AND Will? So many deaths and disappearances that I look forward to the many new characters the author will most likely introduce in the sequel. I’m not teary-eyed about the last disappearance, as I wasn’t particularly attached to THAT character in question, but holy macaroni that was unexpected.
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