The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
The book is slow to start with Caroline finding out her husband is cheating on her and she is almost feeling sorry for herself. Cut back to Nella and Eliza who are going through their own struggles with cruel men who take advantage of women. Caroline’s husband turns out to be a complete cad and thankfully Caroline realizes that she can (and probably should) leave him and start working on her dream again. Nella and Eliza help each other in ways that only women can help another woman, and more in some ways. Nella and Eliza’s adventure is really what the heart of the book is about and what makes the ending so amazing is that the author leads the reader to a possibility and lets the reader fill in the rest based on the story leading up to the ending.
This is the first book by Sarah Penner and the author has made such a good impression that more books would be welcome.
Character List/Book Summary:
Nella – owns/runs the apothecary that her mother once ran, it is only to help women who are in need of help. Knows she is a murderer, is 41 years old. Allows her shop to be a refuse for women. Her child would have been 19, and that is when she changed from helping through the store up front to working in the back room only. Helped Rissa poison Frederick. Is threatened into hurting a woman by Lady Clarence and that is when the trouble starts for Nella and Eliza.
Eliza Fanning – 12 years old, curious about how Nella’s potions work, sent to Nella by her mistress. Fondled by Mr. Amwell, which sends her mistress to Nella. Eliza believes in magic, and goes to a bookstore to learn about magic. Offers to help Nella, because she sees that Nella is struggling physically. Jumps from the bridge and takes the blame for the murders. Later makes a statement when her husband dies that she had a guidance from a friend. Wants to leave her mistress and work with Nella.
Caroline Parcewell – 34 years old, in London by herself instead of with her husband on their 10 year anniversary trip. Finds out that her husband is cheating on her, and starts re-evaluating all the safe choices she has made since she got in engaged and married. Starts researching the apothecary after finding a bottle with a little impression on it while mudlarking. Finds the hidden shop and was able to take a few photos, that she uses for her thesis. Gaynor helps her find information and explains to police what they were doing when Caroline’s husband shows up unexpectedly and Caroline ends up in trouble.
Frederick – scarred Nella’s heart and womb, Nella poisoned him after he betrayed her. Married to Rissa, who he cheated on with Nella. Caused Nella to miscarry their child when he poison her and left her.
James – Caroline’s husband, follows her to London instead of respecting her wish to be alone on the trip. Swallows eucalyptus, possibly on purpose to make Caroline feel bad for him, and becomes so sick he ends up in the hospital. The police suspect Caroline poisoned her husband.
Mrs. Amwell – Eliza’s mistress, wants to poison her husband, Thompson Amwell of Warwick Lane, because he has assaulted the young maids before. Teaches Eliza to read and write because her hands are failing her.
Alfred – invites Caroline to go mudlarking while she is walking around London, is happily married for 40 years and tells Caroline to talk to Gaynor at the British Library about trying to find out more about her bottle.
Gaynor Baymont – Alfred’s daughter, works at the British Library at the Maps Desk. Helps Caroline’s investigation into the apothecary murders. Encourages Caroline to take up research again. Explains the research the two of them were doing to the police when James is in the hospital. Befriends Caroline when she returns to London to study.
Lady Clarence – seeks to kill her husband’s mistress, threatens to expose Nella when she is refused. Nella is forced to help her poison the mistress, which goes against her code, and that is when the trouble starts. Lady Clarence accidentally poisons her husband and in the investigation while trying to not say anything the police find out about the murders that are happening from a hidden apothecary.
Tom Pepper – owns the bookstore that Eliza visits to learn about magic, and flirts with Eliza. Eliza ends up having a long connection to the bookstore, after what she believes to be magic worked.