Scan 1I can’t believe that we are nearly at the middle of February and, although I have been reading away quite happily, I haven’t got around to posting any thoughts on what I have read. So before I launch into the first book of 2014, apologies in advance for a bit of a blog-post-fest over the next couple of days as I try to catch up.

So to The Poisoned Island, the second novel by Lloyd Shepherd in his (hopefully going to continue for ages) series about the Thames river police in the early years of the 19th century.

What’s the book about?

It is 1812, and many years after Captain Cook’s first voyage the British are still obsessed with Tahiti, and in particular the astonishing botanical specimens that could be found there, many of which a recently arrived ship, Solander, has brought back to populate the botanic gardens at Kew. Harriott and Horton are asked to take an interest in the security of the ship and its valuable cargo, but of course there is more to the story than that, as several of the crew members wind up dead in brutal circumstances with their personal belongings ransacked. What was the killer looking for?

Why did I want to read it?

If it’s possible to mildly stalk someone then that’s what I do in relation to Lloyd Shepherd having read and thoroughly enjoyed The English Monster as my first read of 2012 (which I reviewed here); he’s worth following on his blog and on Twitter and I’m a bit of a fan (but in a healthy middle-aged woman way, I hope). I feel really bad because I bought this as soon as it came out in hardback and then it sat in the stacks while I was distracted by bright and shiny things. Also I used to live and work near Kew and it was very interesting to read about the early years of the gardens that I used to walk past every day on my way to the office.

What did I think of it?

Very, very enjoyable and a worthy sequel. I particularly liked learning more about Harrington and Horton and the way in which the relationships of all of the main characters develop was convincing and really drew me in; I desperately wanted to Horton to work out what was behind the dreadful deaths of the seaman from the Solander. I became very attached to Horton’s wife Abigail who has a significant role to play and I hope we see a lot more of her in future books. The historical background, especially how awful the Prince Regent was, covered a lot of things that were either new to me or about which I had only a superficial knowledge and like all the best books it pushes you towards reading more widely (don’t miss the author’s note at the end). I will admit to having twigged just before the reveal who the murderer was but that doesn’t matter at all.

Conclusion

Worth saying that I read the last 175 pages in one sitting on a dark Sunday afternoon which should tell you something about how immersed I became. Excellent.

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