Book review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner


A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.


I was gifted this book by Legend Press in exchange for a review.

Wow! What a debut! It’s unsurprising to me that this one has gained so much attention already, it’s a fantastically fun, fast-paced and exciting novel about women determining their own fates with a heart-racing mystery story at its core.⁠

This story is told through 3 perspectives, two of which take place in 18th Century London, with the other being the modern-day. I loved how the timeline of the story moved through all 3 of the characters. It was exciting seeing how today’s Caroline was unravelling the mystery only to be pulled back in time to see the story take place in real-time through Nella or Eliza’s eyes. ⁠

This book is a great reminder of why I love historical fiction so much. The atmosphere of 18th Century London was so well written, I was transported there each time Nella and Eliza were telling the story. Whilst I did love Caroline’s addition to the book, bringing us into the modern-day and going through the motions with her after her husband’s horrible betrayal, I did still prefer the historical settings the most. ⁠

If you’re the type of reader who needs brilliant characters to really bring a book to life then look no further. It’s been a long time since I’ve truly loved any characters I’ve read about, but Penner’s novel brought that waiting to an end. Each of the women in this novel had their own unique voices, with troubled backstories that brought them to life. I found them all completely loveable. ⁠

There’s not much more to say about this one other than if you’re into historical fiction, this one feels like a must-read. And to those readers who haven’t explored historical fiction much yet, this is a good place to start. It’s short and fast-paced, I have no doubt you’ll fly through it in no time!⁠⁠

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Details:

Pages: 320
Edition Published:
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Goodreads Av. Rating: 3.89

2 Replies to “Book review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner”

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