By Kate Khavari
Published June 2022
1923 – Saffron Everleigh has had to work twice as hard as her male counterparts for her position as a botany research assistant at the University College London. She’s determined to succeed in Academia, but she’s either dismissed or taken advantage of by her male co-workers and superiors. Perhaps her life will be easier once the worst of the offenders depart on an Amazonian research trip? Instead, just weeks before the trip, her life turns upside down when she attends a dinner party and the wife of the head of the expedition is poisoned. Even worse, all evidence points to her boss and mentor, Dr. Maxwell, as the culprit.
Putting her knowledge of poisonous plants to work, and with the help of a handsome scientist, Saffron races against time to both clear Dr. Maxwell’s name and find the real criminal before the perpetrator can sail off to the Amazon.
I’ll admit, this is one novel I picked up because of the title and the cover. Both are nearly impossible to resist. Also, a mystery set in 1920’s London? Yes, please!
I was surprised, yet delighted, that the focus of the story was on academia and specifically burgeoning areas of science, rather than speakeasies and flappers. I loved Saffron’s no-nonsense attitude, and the daily fight that she undertook to be considered a serious scientist was all too real – from pats on the head to unwanted advances (to put it mildly), this book was a good reminder of how far women have come in the workplace. I also appreciated the insight the author showed in handling PTSD, or shell shock, experienced by many soldiers after WWI. While I still think we have a long way to go to understand it and help veterans, it was grossly misunderstood, if diagnosed at all, in the 1920s.
**Spoiler alert** – skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know anything about the plot.
What didn’t quite work for me was Saffron’s reason for continuing with her investigation after Dr. Maxwell had been cleared. Honestly, with any amateur investigator mystery, there needs to be a compelling reason for the MC to undertake the case in the first place. This book covered that, but once that need was removed, the rationale of “she wanted to see how much she could figure out” (I’m paraphrasing) didn’t work for me. What also didn’t work was how quickly she took all of her evidence to the police – I mean, most of her evidence was obtained illegally, or at least in a questionable manner, and a lot of it could have pointed right back at her as the prime suspect, yet she was never seriously considered one.
Still, it was an enjoyable novel and the pluses outweigh the minuses.
I rated this book 3.25 stars. ⭐⭐⭐+
Until next time, thank you for visiting.
2 thoughts on “Book Review: A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons”
That cover is stunning!
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I know, right?