A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang
Publisher: Lake Union
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (333 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many victims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned—and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.

Desperate for answers and dreading her own engagement to a wealthy gentleman, Allene returns to her passion for scientific discovery and recruits her long-lost friends, Jasper and Birdie, for help. The investigation brings her closer to Jasper, an apprentice medical examiner at Bellevue Hospital who still holds her heart, and offers the delicate Birdie a last-ditch chance to find a safe haven before her fragile health fails.

As more of their friends and family die, alliances shift, lives become entangled, and the three begin to suspect everyone—even each other. As they race to find the culprit, Allene, Birdie, and Jasper must once again trust each other, before one of them becomes the next victim.

The author takes us back in time to the days of moneyed people having more stature than the poor and women being possessions of men. It’s also the time of the Spanish Flu and the war with the Germans. Besides worrying about friends and family being called to duty, Allene has more to worry about. She’s engaged to marry a man she doesn’t love and her friends from the past have been banished from the house. She doesn’t understand why her father hates them so but she has to follow his rules while living in his house.

The reader learns about wartime rules, how the poor survived, and how bleak some of their lives were. It’s realistic but not too in depth about the flu, which is a blessing. When Allene reconnects with her friends, she’s happy to be reunited. When people in their lives begin dying, she starts to get worried. They are not dying from natural causes, they are being poisoned!

This is a tantalizing mystery that gives the reader enough details to ferret out the killer but she always holds back the final clue. The killer is a surprise. The reason why makes sense. And the survivors have to recover and move on.

This world in the past is one that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Who wants a man telling you what to wear, what to think, and your whole goal in life is to make him happy? Even if you inherit money, if you marry, it all becomes his. It’s no wonder people in this day and age did desperate things. The ending is a bit sad but it’s appropriate. Justice does prevail.

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