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E.S Thomson has such a talent for pulling you into Jem Flockhart’s world – a grimy but vivid Victorian London, in which she, a cross-dressing apothecary, navigates mystery and danger with both her sidekick Will Quartermain, and an expansive knowledge of herbs, poisons and toxins. It’s impossible not to love the series, and its central protagonist. Kirsty Logan puts it best: ‘Jem is just my kind of heroine: scarred, smart, complex, and unapologetically queer’.

This instalment is just as rich in atmosphere as it is suspense, and the stakes feel even higher as Jem finds her investigation taking her further afield than London. She finds herself in settings where hallucinogenic drugs, debauchery and death are ever present.  It’s always a thrill to see how Jem uses her skills as an apothecary – understanding strange poisons – to decipher the poisonous desires and deeds of people themselves. With Halloween approaching, this is most certainly the perfect Gothic crime novel to welcome in the spooky season.

Chris Sturtivant