The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this from the publisher for review.
Caleb Maddox is a toxicologist who just wants to drown his sorrows after an ugly breakup with his girlfriend. At a bar he meets the beautiful and bewitching Emmeline who has a taste for absinthe but then vanishes into the night. Caleb is instantly obsessed and determined to find her, but he finds himself getting drawn into the investigation of several murders when he tries to track her down.
Nothing good happens when you start chasing the green fairy, people.
This is very well written thriller that creates an intensely brooding and spooky atmosphere. Caleb navigates the cold and foggy streets of San Francisco in a kind of trance fueled by booze, heartache over his girlfriend, and his strange infatuation with Emmeline. He seems to be operating in a dreamlike state at times, but that tone contrasts nicely with the more straight line narrative of what’s going on with the murders.
The killings aren’t the only mystery to be solved here. What was the cause of the fight between Caleb and his girlfriend? What’s up the hints of an ugly tragedy in Caleb’s past? Who exactly is Emmeline, and why is Caleb instantly so determined to find her?
What’s even more impressive is that all of this is dealt with an incredibly tight 274 pages. The book doesn’t feel a bit rushed, but there’s also not an ounce of fat on it. Plus, for all it’s moody atmosphere there’s incredibly fascinating hard science mixed in with Caleb’s toxicology skills coming into play at several points.
This would be a great book to be reading in a dimly lit bar on a rainy night. Just don’t get into the absinthe. That’s when things get weird.
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