In this addictive and spectacularly imagined debut, 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. Pitched as Kate Morton meets The Miniaturist, The Lost Apothecary is a bold work of historical fiction with a rebellious twist that heralds the coming of an explosive new talent.
A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…
Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.
Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.
With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.
The Lost Apothecary is an historical fiction with a dual timeline set in 1791 London and the present day. Both of these timelines deal with secrets and the agency of women. Both story arcs are born out of betrayal. The pain from one betrayal leads one woman to turn her apothecary into a means for other women to free themselves of the men in their lives. Whether it be their husband or employer Nella serves up doses of poison to kill them but make it look like they died of natural causes. Caroline’s betrayal brings her to England alone seeking clarity about her marriage.
The two timelines cross paths when Caroline goes mudlarking and finds a vial with the apothecary’s logo etched on it. This peaks her interest enough that she begins researching the lost apothecary and the series of murders that were linked to it. I loved how Penner brought the two storylines together and especially how she managed to have these dual timelines reach a crescendo at the same time.
The Lost Apothecary emphasizes how women are erased from history. Both main characters strive to defy this convention. Nella ensures that the names of every woman who visits her shop are recorded while Caroline works diligently to uncover their voices.
Words of Wisdom from The Lost Apothecary
- We can use our relationships with others to hide things from ourselves. In Caroline’s case once she got married she put her aspirations aside and followed her husband.
- We can be happy but not necessarily fulfilled. In loving someone else do not lose who are or forget your dreams.
Meet the Author
Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary, to be translated in eleven languages worldwide. She works full-time in finance and is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida, with their miniature dachshund, Zoe.