What happens if you situate a mystery in the grime and desolation of a crumbling hospital in the early Victorian time? What happens is that you get a dark, blooding and foreboding atmosphere in which the protagonist, Jem Flockhart, a male/female apothecary tries to uncover the truth about six tiny mildewed coffins that were found in a largely abandoned church. Are they part of some arcane ritual or do they signify something even more sinister?
Flockhart is masked by a disfiguring birthmark around the eyes. A protagonist with a disfigurement or injury is a trick of the trade that is used by many writers, including by myself. But Elaine Thomson uses it expertly. The books itself weaves an intricate web of suspicions and suspense. It paints a disturbing picture of the soot and grime of Victorian London.
When we need hospitalization today, we are welcomed into a pristine environment with learned and friendly staff. In the olden days hospitals were merely a place to die if your injuries became infected. Antibiotics weren't available in the 1840's and STD's, like syphilis, were spreading like wildfire through Victorian London.
Elaine Thomson (1968) is a Scottish academic with a PhD in the history of medicine, which clearly shows on each and every page. 'Beloved Poison' is one of the very few books I want to read anew in the future. This is a tale you will remember for a long, long time. I am already eagerly awaiting the publication of part two of the series, titled 'Dark Asylum'.
Update [10th April 2018]: The first two novels, 'Beloved poison' and 'Dark Asylum' have now been optioned by the television production company behind the primetime hit, 'The Durrells'. A proud Elaine Thomson said: "Sid Gentle Productions have optioned them and are working on getting a writer to adapt them for the screen. Then it will be put to the BBC and ITV, and I believe Netflix are interested."
Who will be the lucky actress to play a believable Jem Flockhart? I've sent Sid Gentle Production a suggestion: Honeysuckle Weeks, who played Sam Stewart in 'Foyle's War'.