Saffron Everleigh is in a race against time to free her wrongly accused professor before he goes behind bars forever. Perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn and Anna Lee Huber, Kate Khavari’s debut historical mystery is a fast-paced, fearless adventure.
London, 1923. Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh attends a dinner party for the University College of London. While she expects to engage in conversations about the university’s large expedition to the Amazon, she doesn’t expect Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives to drop to the floor, poisoned by an unknown toxin.
Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor, is the main suspect, having had an explosive argument with Dr. Henry a few days prior. As evidence mounts against Dr. Maxwell and the expedition’s departure draws nearer, Saffron realizes if she wants her mentor’s name cleared, she’ll have to do it herself.
Joined by enigmatic Alexander Ashton, a fellow researcher, Saffron uses her knowledge of botany as she explores steamy greenhouses, dark gardens, and deadly poisons. Will she be able to uncover the truth or will her investigation land her on the murderer’s list?
I received this book for free from the author/publisher via NetGalley. All comments and opnions are entirely my own and this review is voluntary.
“Oh, you have a problem with a strapping young man fighting through the jungle while pining for you?”
Plants, poisons, a mystery, and two classic who-dun-it characters is only the beginning of A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons. This romantic mystery held my attention from the very first chapter and I fought myself to get back to work and stop reading. There were many times that I thought I had everything figured out, but the plot quickly unraveled, keeping me *literally* biting my nails.
This book is a very quick read, I started and finished it in the same day, and it’s also very fast paced, which is excellent for a mystery. There really weren’t any slow spots and I never lost interest! Saffron Everleigh and Alexander Ashton were my favorite, naturally. Their chemistry was so fun and had me giggling. Everything about them felt entirely natural and true to character as the romance developed too, so that was a huge win for me!
There’s only a couple of reasons for my rating of 4 stars instead of 5 though. The first is that I had a difficulty with names. There is a fairly small cast of characters, and in that, there’s a Harry and a Henry. An Ashton and an Aster. A Blake and a Berking. An Eris and an Eliza (short for Elizabeth). And a few other similar name pairings that made it incredibly difficult to distinguish characters in the beginning, especially since the majority of them begin with the preface of “Dr.” and go by both first and last names. I finally got them mostly straight by the halfway mark, but still, I’d like to see less similar names in future books, especially in a mystery where character distinction plays a huge role in the plot.
The other reason is that with how heavily the expedition was included in story, I really got the idea that part of the story would take place during the expedition and would be drawn out a bit more. Instead, the whole book takes place in a single week leading up to the departure of the expedition, so I was kind of disappointed to not get to go on the expedition to the Amazon. But perhaps the author wishes to save that trip for the sequential book that I have my fingers crossed for!
Overall, A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons was a fun read and I loved the large part that plants played in this story. I give it 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to mystery lovers!
Content Warning: Mild cursing. Sexual harassment (not detailed). Attempted murder. Infidelity. Mild discrimination. There is no gore, and on-screen romance is a single kiss.