The Poison Artist
Orion Publishing Group
Pub Date: 10 Mar 2016
As this book opens, San Francisco toxicologist, Caleb Maddox, is picking pieces of glass from a wound to his head. He has just had a serious and violent break up with his girlfriend, Bridget, and he is off in search of solace and somewhere to drown his sorrows. He finds a local bar and starts up a conversation with a beautiful and mysterious woman – Emmeline. She quickly becomes a burning obsession, and a secret he wants to protect at all costs, even when he subsequently discovers another man from the same bar that evening has been found murdered. The murdered man was poisoned , tortured and dumped in the bay; and he is not the first. Caleb soon finds himself assisting his best friend, Henry, the city’s chief medical examiner, in trying to find the cause of death, and a murder who seems set on inflicting maximum pain on his or her victims.
The police, and one policeman in particular, are also very interested in the case and Caleb, as hints are given to a connection with his past. This past is mentioned frequently in passing but Moore obfuscates and keeps this past – which you instinctively know must have a bearing on events – shrouded in the type of fog that San Francisco is famous for. He also avoids addressing – for much of the book – what caused the fight between Caleb and Bridget and why it caused such an extreme reaction.
As Caleb fights to help Henry solve the crime, and keep on top of securing valuable research data on how much pain a human body can endure to help the University secures a lucrative grant, he is constantly blindsided by his desire for Emmeline, he need to keep her secret and their promise not to lie to or hurt one another.
This was a great read. The writing is crisp and flows as readily and precisely as the absinthe in the book; and whilst the key aspect of the plot is not new, and has been done better (without saying where and giving it away) it is executed well, and does keep you turning the pages until the end.
I felt the end itself was slightly disappointing, but getting there was (despite the horrors in the book) fun. Expect the sales of absinthe to go up after this.
Review copy provided by Orion/NetGalley