Tuesday, May 31, 2022

ARC Review: A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari

A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poison

Kate Khavari
Series: A Saffron Everleigh Mystery (Book 1)
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (June 7, 2022)

Description: Debut author Kate Khavari deftly entwines a pulse-pounding mystery with the struggles of a woman in a male-dominated field in 1923 London.

Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh is determined to blaze a new trail at the University College London, but with her colleagues’ beliefs about women’s academic inabilities and not so subtle hints that her deceased father’s reputation paved her way into the botany department, she feels stymied at every turn.

When she attends a dinner party for the school, she expects to engage in conversations about the university's large expedition to the Amazon. What she doesn’t expect is for 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 and evidence quickly mounts. Joined by fellow researcher--and potential romantic interest--Alexander Ashton, Saffron uses her knowledge of botany as she explores steamy greenhouses, dark gardens, and deadly poisons to clear Maxwell's name.

Will she be able to uncover the truth or will her investigation land her on the murderer’s list, in this entertaining examination of society’s expectations.

My Thoughts: Saffron Everleigh is a new research assistant at University College London where she is pursuing her interest in botany despite the prejudices of the men in her department. Her father was in the apartment before he lost his life during World War I. Some of the men feel that she's playing on her father's reputation for her place.

She is invited to attend a dinner party celebrating an upcoming expedition to the Amazon where she meets a new researcher in bacteria Alexander Ashton. In fact, they are talking when she overhears the wife of one of the prominent professors in the department making cryptic remarks. A few short minutes later, she and Ashton watch as the woman collapses to the floor after drinking some champagne. 

Saffron's mentor Dr. Maxwell soon becomes a suspect both because of his knowledge of poisons and because he has argued with the prominent professor about the Amazon expedition. 

Saffron is determined to save her professor's reputation and clear his name. Along with Alexander Ashton she does all sorts of things including searching a number of offices, experimenting on herself with poison, and crossing paths with a variety of villains on her quest to clear her mentor's name. 

I enjoyed the setting of this story despite the role women were allowed to play at the time. Saffron is smart and determined and perhaps braver than good sense would demand. Alexander Ashton was also an interesting character who fought in WWI and came home with various war injuries including a new case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

I will look forward to reading more of Saffron Everleigh's adventures. 

Favorite Quote:
The pile of papers and books he'd shoved off the couch to make room for her wasn't helping his anxiety. The broken glass taunted him from across the room. His fingers itched to clean it up. In fact, this room made his whole body vibrate with the need to fix the enormous mess that was everywhere. But he didn't have to clean it now. He didn't.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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