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The Lost Apothecary

A Novel

by Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner X
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2021, 320 pages

    Feb 2022, 352 pages


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There are currently 28 reader reviews for The Lost Apothecary
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Mary C.

You will lose yourself in The Lost Apothecary!
If I could list all of the plot characteristics of a historical fiction book I knew I would love, almost all of the boxes would have been checked by Sarah Penner’s remarkable debut novel: we’ve got feminism! London! centuries-long mystery! libraries! poisoning terrible men! In my opinion, the only that was missing was a touch of cheesy romance I can’t help it, there was even a sassy sidekick in both of the timelines. The story was rich with great characters, story development. It had mystery, it had cliffhangers at every turn.
I rarely read books twice, but I'm sure I'll be reading this one again. It was definitely my favorite book I've read this year!
What are you waiting for? Get this book. You won’t be able to put it down!
Power Reviewer
Betty Taylor

Amazing debut!
An amazing debut novel! I immediately became immersed in the story.

Set in London England, 1791, Nella, a female apothecary, has been dispensing cures all her life. But after being abused by her husband, she now also dispenses poisons for women to get revenge on the men who have wronged them. “Vengeance is its own medicine.” She has two rules. Eliza, only 12 years old, is enthralled with what she considers magick and eagerly learns all she can from Nella.

Present day - Caroline Parcewell had planned a trip to London to celebrate her 10-year wedding anniversary, but instead finds that her husband has been cheating on her. Having abandoned her dream of becoming a historian, she decides to go to London alone and immerse herself in its history. Her discovery of an old apothecary vial in the muck of the river sets her on the path of researching the unsolved “apothecary murders” over two centuries ago.

Betrayal, grief, and revenge are core to this well plotted story. Some of the women’s stories were heartbreaking. I had to remind myself that in the 1790s women had no legal protection. The main characters were very well developed; I found myself really caring about them. I loved the suspense and was kept guessing as to what would happen to Nella and Eliza. While this is a dual storyline book and multiple (three - Caroline, Nella, and Eliza) narrators, I had absolutely no difficulty keeping the timelines and characters separate as I read.

I will definitely be watching for future releases by this author. If you are a fan of historical fiction and/or thrillers, I highly recommend this book.
Power Reviewer

Elizabeth@Silver'sReviews - Excellent
Who wouldn't like to solve a hundred-year-old mystery and especially one that had to do with poisons that were used to kill unfaithful husbands or boyfriends.

Caroline came to London for a tenth anniversary celebration, but found out her husband had been having an affair so she came alone.

She didn’t want to follow through with her itinerary she was to have had with her husband and happened upon a man who suggested she go mudlarking with a group.

Mudlarking was done in the 1800’s as a means of survival by finding things washed up on the shore, but this group did it for fun.

Caroline finds a vial with a bear on it. Her curiosity as a historian had her searching for what the vial may have been used for and the place where a shop probably existed in 1791 that could have created remedies.

While Caroline is looking for clues, we flash back to 1791 and meet Nella who made remedies, actually poisons, for women who needed to be rid of their husbands. A young girl, Eliza, who came to the shop to have Nella make a potion for her mistress, took an interest in the shop.

Nella, Eliza, and Caroline collide virtually in present day through research and poisons.

THE LOST APOTHECARY is very clever, enjoyable, different, unique, and very well researched.

I loved the information about the maps of London and finding clues to how others lived and worked in past times.

History buffs, those who love solving years-old mysteries, and those who love Old London won’t want to miss this book.


An amazing debut!! 5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Carole C. (Newtown Square, PA)

The Lost Apothecary
I really liked this book! It was very hard to put down as I wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen next. Sarah Penner does a wonderful job weaving together the stories of the main characters which both take place in London during the18th century and present day. It's never confusing though and there are interesting twists that keep you guessing. This is a well researched historical novel that would lead to some great book club discussions. I look forward to more books from this author!
Maryanne B. (Little Compton, RI)

Historical mystery with a twist
Contemporary London and its 18th century counterpart collide in this historical mystery of a back-alley female apothecary who secretly distributes toxins to women to avenge the men who have betrayed, hurt, and abused them. Intertwining the two timelines with three female characters, Sarah Penner depicts these women struggling with betrayal and loss as they sever the bonds imposed on them by the men in their lives. With its dark side of vengeance along with timely themes of hope and women finding their voices and resilience to unite and support each other, I think feminists and book clubs will enjoy discussing this book.
Colleen T. (Lakewood, CO)

The Lost Apothecary
I am in awe of the Sarah Penner's ability to create these characters and the world in which they live. I have always liked stories set in London in any era, and for this story to be in the present and the past, makes it captivating. I was fascinated by the idea of a woman helping other women who find themselves in extremely bad situations in an era where there were no other solutions. And to have the current character doing research on the characters in the past was wonderful. I really like the characters, the realistic and gritty descriptions of London in the past and the description of present-day London.
Alyce T. (San Antonio, TX)

The Lost Apothecary
One of the things that I really liked about The Lost Apothecary was that it was about ordinary people. Most historical novels I have read are the lives of royalty. Sarah Penner did a lot of research in everyday life in the 1790's. Women faced the same mistreatment then as they do today. Nella's approach to helping fellow sufferers was through the Apothecary where she had learned medicine from her mother. Caroline comes to London in present day escaping a cheating husband on their wedding anniversary. She finds a bottle which leads her to research the ancient apothecary and it's proprietor. It was an interesting page turner with twists and turns between the 2 centuries and into the lives of Nella and Caroline. I hope Sarah writes another book.
Christine P. (Essex Junction, VT)

The Lost Apothecary
I loved this book. Couldn't put it down. Just when I thought I knew where the story was going, it took another turn. The main characters were likeable and sympathetic, and I cared what happened to them, which to me always means a good read. It was most interesting to see how Caroline and Nella each dealt with unfaithful partners 200 years apart, and how their lives and those around them were changed by their decisions. And Caroline's search to uncover Nella's secrets pulled the two story lines together easily and kept me reading when I should have been doing other things. A great book group candidate.

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