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Just beyond the Gilded Age, in the mist-covered streets of New York, the deadly Spanish influenza ripples through the city. But with so many victims in her close circle, young socialite Allene questions if the flu is really to blame. All appear to have been poisoned—and every death was accompanied by a mysterious note.
Desperate for answers and dreading her own engagement to a wealthy gentleman, Allene returns to her passion for scientific discovery and recruits her long-lost friends, Jasper and Birdie, for help. The investigation brings her closer to Jasper, an apprentice medical examiner at Bellevue Hospital who still holds her heart, and offers the delicate Birdie a last-ditch chance to find a safe haven before her fragile health fails.
As more of their friends and family die, alliances shift, lives become entangled, and the three begin to suspect everyone—even each other. As they race to find the culprit, Allene, Birdie, and Jasper must once again trust each other, before one of them becomes the next victim.
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Lydia Kang is a physician and author of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland and graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine. She completed her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City and currently lives in the midwest, where she continues to practice internal medicine.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The synopsis of the plot sounds so thrilling, I was really looking forward to this book. Set during the later years of the Great War a privileged New York socialite and her less fortunate friends are drawn in to a complex plot where their nearest and dearest appear to be being murdered and the murderer is mocking them. Promising twists and turns aplenty I was ready to become absorbed by this dark tale. Unfortunately, what I actually got was a rather insipid tale with lifeless characters who never step off the page. In fact, the maid Lucy/Lucia was potentially the most interesting person in the whole book and we know so very little about her except that she is initially set up as being a potential murderer of the first victim. We only find out a little more when Spanish Flu claims her life. I think it speaks volumes that the most memorable and empathetic character appears briefly two or three times through the book. The main protagonists of Allene (rich socialite, unendingly self involved), Jasper (fallen on hard times and is desperate to prove himself) and Birdie (shallow and rather unpleasantly manipulative) are to the one completely unlikeable stereotypes of the pre-flapper era. I could not find one thing that redeemed any of these characters and it did make me wonder why the murderer didn't just cut straight to the chase and bump the three of them off and put us, the reader, out of our misery. The writing itself is surprisingly good. It is a surprise as the characterisation is poor and the plot is actually not that far behind. There is a good attempt to build tension within the tale but, sadly, the people in the story just aren't up to it so it all falls a little bit flat on the page. The historical aspects of the story are dealt with very well and you get a feeling of the fear in the populace due not only to the new draft for men to fight in Europe but also the unstoppable tide of the Spanish Flu that is sweeping all before it. It is for that reason that it got 2 Stars from me and not just the 1 it would have received based on characters and story.
Warnings: mentions of rape, child molestation, sex with dubious consent, character deaths, murder Perhaps the best thing about A Beautiful Poison is that despite being a murder mystery novel, the murder mystery is not really the main focus of the story. Yes, it all circles around the murders, if you look at it from afar, but it actually delves into the motivations of the different characters. To call the characters of this novel morally ambiguous is an understatement - most of them come across as unlikable at first glance, with the exception of Birdy. Allene is a rich socialite, whose childhood friends Jasper and Birdy grew apart 4 years ago. Now, with her engagement they are back in her lives, and their relationship is convoluted. There are traces of affection for one another, even romantic interest, but they all have their separate paths and even with Allene's enthusiasm and clinical interest in solving the murders, we soon realize that those paths have dark nooks. What starts as just an interesting murder mystery emerges as a character-driven plot, with the desires of the characters and their feelings for one another carrying the plot forward. Birdy's story, specifically, is about how she is always the object of others' desires, and how it only brings her unhappiness. Jasper, despite affectionate for both his best friends, has only ambition on his mind. And Allene - she just wants what she cannot have, and considers Jasper and Birdy hers. The plot kept me guessing throughout, and the mystery kept me on my toes, and the ending was unexpected, also more so because of the revelations for the character's motivations. This is one dark story, but definitely recommended if that's your thing.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings When I read the synopsis for the book I was extremely excited to be a part of the tour, it has two things that are right up my alley - historical fiction and who dun it, I was so excited! To get straight to the point, this one didn't work for me. Usually I can pinpoint to a T what in a book I don't love, but this one doesn't stand out for me. Let me back up and say what I did love. I did love the time period and the is it flu is it murder aspect. I enjoyed that a murderer or two got away with some things for awhile because of the time period and all of the drama that was going on.
[NOTE: I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.] Loved the backdrop in this book. World War I (with the reader knowing it’s nearing its end... but not the characters). The dreadful influenza reaching American shores and starting a war all of its own. Socialites in their own little world, feeling the bigger world as an intrusion that may or may touch them (whether draft or flu). Murders in those ‘higher spheres’, with the reminder that with a little money, nobody will try and look further. The early times of another type of poisoning, too, for the girls who painted clock dials with magic glowing in the dark (if you haven’t done so yet, read The Radium Girls, it’s really interesting). I liked the beginning well enough: an engagement party, one of the guests falling to her death on the stair, and it turns out the fall isn’t what killed her—poison did. This murder, more than the party itself, reunites the three main characters, who got separated four years prior to these events, due to various reasons, but mostly selfish ones, such as falling out of favour (God forbids your daughter keeps associating with the child of people who committed suicide, right, this is so vulgar and out of taste); and considering the latter, there’s no wonder this relationship is tainted, poisoned, from the start, simmering with both happiness at having friends back yet also with resentment and bitter memories. Which in turn made Allene, Birdie and Jasper unreliable narrators to the power of ten, because in a mystery with murders aplenty, they were part of the pool of potential culprits just as much as other people at the engagement party. There was a lot of unhealthy tension in this book, because of the characters’ past, and because of other secrets that got revealed later. Although in a way, I liked it, I wasn’t too keen on how it all unfurled; the characters weren’t very likeable, but for me that wasn’t even due to their personalities (I can enjoy a ‘non-likeable’ character), more to the fact they were somewhat inconsistent with what was told of them at first. For instance, Allene is presented as loving chemistry, but this didn’t play as much of a part as I expected (mostly she still remained the socialite totally oblivious to the people around her, unless what affected those people affected her as well). Perhaps Birdie was, all in all, the most consistent of all. I’m not sure where the line was, that line that would’ve made me like these characters more; it just didn’t click with me here. The narrative, I think, was also poised between too little and too much. Part of me wanted more of the setting (New York, descriptions, parties, how the flu claimed people—horrifying symptoms, and so many deaths), yet at the same time, the setting plus the murders didn’t mesh fully, and the plot felt too convoluted when nearing the end. And, of course, what’s happening to Birdie—as the author mentioned at the end (and I agree), historical accuracy demanded there could be no closure on that specific point, but this means that, well, either you already know about that bit of history, or you don’t, and it makes no sense. Tricky. Conclusion: It was an OK read for me: mildly entertaining in general, but not a gripping mystery. Here I preferred the setting to the characters.
Loved reading this book, it was engaging from the very first page, I mean who can resist and good murder in the first few pages? The story builds off of the friendship of three teenagers and how life has handed them each a very different future than the one they had when they were younger. You have the wealthy socialite and her selfish nature, the golden boy who's parents lost everything and his fall from their social circle and the daughter of the lady's companion who is best friends with the socialite but not her equal. Murders are happening to people they love and they work together to try and find the person responsible. Interesting story, lots of historical facts and information about the time period and the love they each have for one another that is not shaken.
Sometimes it is hard to believe that you could learn something out of a novel that you might have missed in your high school science class. But if you're a fan of murder mysteries and the Gilded Age, then you will LOVE Lydia Kang's newest novel, A Beautiful Poison. Based in 1918, three childhood friends, Allene, Birdie and Jasper used to spend their days at Allene's estate playing and getting into all kinds of childhood trouble. But as we all know, over time, we grow and change but the affections of these trio's remains strong. Allene is all set to marry Andrew, a match most suitable among her parents and on the eve of their engagement party, a young woman appears to have fallen down the stairs and broken her neck. But was it an accident? Allene has always been found of chemicals and their molecular bounds but for a young socialite, her father has forbidden her to encourage her natural love of chemistry. So she sneaks books out of her father's library to read at night. This is when she notices a piece of paper that falls from it with only two words written in elegant penmanship, "You're Welcome." It is Jasper to happens upon the one clue that no one catches and that is the strange burnt almond smell of the broken glass in the young woman's hand. But how will he be able to convince anyone that it appears that foul play may have been involved and if so, who is the murder? Birdie, Allene and Jasper make a pact to begin to solve the murder on their own with what clues they can gather. Allene's father has paid off the police to ensure that this accident is not investigated any further than the accident it seems to be. Jasper's job as the janitor at the medical building soon lands him a promotion to working for the medical examiner, but even they refuse to autopsy the body to look for confirmation of a poisoning. Without any permission, this will wrap up the case but Jasper soon sneaks into the lab at night to conduct his own tests just before the body is slated for removal for the burial. It confirms without a doubt that Florence, the young woman at the party has been murdered. But what is the motive? Soon the body counts continue to rise around the trio and more letters appear with each death. I received A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang compliments of Lake Union Publishing and TLC Book Tours. The best part about murder mysteries for me, is trying to figure out who did it before the book reveals it. I got it wrong twice and was shocked by not only who was responsible but the very clues that went missing each time until the very end of the novel. The motive was there all along, and the Author's note at the conclusion was wonderful to highlight the medical procedures that went into the creating this unique novel. This book does contain some sexual content which in my opinion, could have been written differently to imply what happened instead, which may offend some readers. I really LOVED the overall aspect of this novel and give it a 4 out of 5 stars. It is not like anything I have read before.