Review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

When I saw this book, the cover made it hard to pass on. The cover is so eye catching and colorful that I couldn’t look away! I loved it and was immediately curious what this book was all about! Then I read the back…..ummmm sold after the two rules! I couldn’t wait to check this one out!

In the summary the first line is this: 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. I mean poison and murder in the late 1700s?! YES! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one!

I also saw that this book was announced as a Book of the Month pick for March and while I have a copy of this one on my iPad, I also ordered the hard copy as my BOTM too! It’s a gorgeous book and the story was so so so good! I am so excited to share this one with you guys today! If you love historical fiction and thrillers this one is wonderful!


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.  (Summary from Goodreads)


This book was a debut release for author Sarah Penner and I was so impressed with the quality of the writing and the development of the characters. I also liked that this one was a duel timeline novel, I know that a lot of people feel that the duel timeline story telling is so over done in historical fiction, but I actually love it and do not mind the style what-so-ever. I feel that this approach helps the story move quickly and keeps readers interested and engaged. It worked really well for this book and it read really quickly for me and the duel timelines connect really well as the story goes on. Very well done!

I don’t know that this book was perfect but I thought the storyline/plot was strong and the characters were fun and developed but the quality of writing was what stood out to me. I also enjoyed this historical details like mudlarking. I had no idea what it was really until I read this book and it sounded like an interesting activity. She also did a great job presenting the apothecary profession. I think for me as a reader, I always think of an apothecary as just someone who dispensed medical treatments but clearly their job was a lot more involved and I appreciated that the author really brought the profession to life in this one. The author did a good job explaining it and creating a unique historic profile of the era and the jobs/activities.

For me the historical part of the story was much more developed than the modern day one. I would have liked to have seen the modern day plot a little more developed but over all this is a historic novel so the emphasis on the historical time is appropriate. I loved the gothic feel of this book too. It had a lot of atmosphere especially in the historic time, which of course I loved. But again, the modern day portion needed a little more development for me and that’s what made this one a 4 star book for me. I enjoyed it but was also hoping for a little more umph in the modern day portion.

If you love historical fiction and a little bit of the gothic you are going to want to get this one on your radar to read! It’s a great debut and the quality of the writing was wonderful! This is going to be an author to watch in the future!

Book Info and Rating

Hardcover, 320 pages

Published March 2nd 2021 by Park Row

ISBN0778311015 (ISBN13: 9780778311010)

Free review copy provided by publisher, Park Row, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 4 stars

Genre: historial fiction


Charming comments go here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s