Thursday, July 15, 2021

Audio Book Review: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: March 2, 2021
Publisher: Harlequin Audio
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating:  4 out of 5 stars



Goodreads says, "A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman. Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.  One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.  In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive."


Caroline, a historian, finds herself on vacation in London alone. She was originally going on this anniversary trip with her husband, James, but since she found out he is having an affair, she takes the trip solo.  While exploring the Thames, she finds a glass vial that once belonged to an old apothecary shop.  After some preliminary research, she figures out that the vial originally belonged to a particular apothecary shop from the 1790s and this shop has ties to the notorious "Apothecary Killer."  Flashback to the 18th century London, we meet apothecary, Nella, who helps women out at her shop as women's health isn't really catered to during this time period.  As the years go by, Nella starts to dabble in poisons that she sells to women who want to escape their cruel husbands.  While working at the apothecary, Nella meets Eliza, who is on an errand for her mistress and ends up helping her out in her shop.  She also befriends young Eliza, but their friendship creates a serious of problems for Nella and things get out of control.  Meanwhile in present day, Caroline is able to piece together details of the "Apothecary Killer" while sorting out her own love life.  Sarah Penner's debut, The Lost Apothecary, is a twisty and atmospheric audio book that fans of historical mysteries focusing on strong women will enjoy.

Caroline is a likeable character in The Lost Apothecary. She's been cheated on, so immediately readers will feel sympathy for her. Instead of sitting home and feeling sorry for herself, she takes matters into her own hands and takes the much anticipated trip to London.  While there, she is naturally drawn to an old vial that she finds while mudlarking; it has ties to an old apothecary shop. She takes steps further and investigates the location of this apothecary from the 18th century.  Caroline does some sleuthing and realizes that this shop has a notorious reputation.  While getting caught up in her recent discovery, her husband James shows up in London.  Cue the drama and some eerily similar circumstances to Nella's back in the 1790s.  

Nella is such an interesting character in The Lost Apothecary. She really came to life for me and the portions of her story were very atmospheric and Gothic. Her job as an apothecary, mixing potions, poisons, and the hidden door were all very well done. I could practically feel the London fog following me down the dark alley to her shop door. Nella's heartbreaking backstory is fleshed out well and I enjoyed her new found friendship with Eliza even though it complicated things. 

I would flip back and forth between reading The Lost Apothecary while also listening to the audio book and I have to say the audio book was fantastic. The narrators (all three!) were some of the best I've heard this year, particularly the narrator that read for Nella, 

So, if you enjoy historical mysteries, especially compelling audio books, look no further. Sarah Penner's The Lost Apothecary will keep you engaged and if you are like me, it will have you longing for an afternoon in London exploring old shops and alleyways.

Are you a fan of historical mysteries? Have you read The Lost Apothecary? Is it on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below. 


  1. You had me at "atmospheric and Gothic"!

    1. Right? I can't wait to see how this translates to TV. Thanks for visiting, Angela!

  2. I love an all-cast audiobooks. I'm so glad this was enjoyable for you. I have a paperback copy and waiting for the audiobook libby copy. Can't wait!

    1. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it, Joy! Thanks for visiting!


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