“Dr Caleb Maddox is an expert on pain. A leading San Francisco toxicologist, he is mapping the chemical traces that show how much agony a human body can endure. But now a different kind of pain is distracting him from his life’s work – the violent break-up of his relationship with his artist girlfriend, Bridget.
Seeking solace in a secluded bar, he meets a beautiful woman who shares an absinthe with him, then disappears into the night. Instantly obsessed, he starts trawling the hidden byways of the city to try and find her. And when he does, she insists on a bizarre set of rules before he can meet her alone.
But even as he tries to lose himself in Emmeline’s darkly erotic world, Caleb finds himself inexorably drawn back to the study of pain and death. For weeks the police have been fishing corpses out of the bay, with no clue as to how they died, and Caleb’s old friend, medical examiner Henry Newcomb, asks him to decipher the chemical puzzles left in the bloated remains. Soon Caleb discovers evidence of an unspeakable horror connecting all the victims, suggesting that the city is prey to a deranged killer.
And then he discovers that one of the dead men was last seen at the same bar the night he met Emmeline. Suddenly Caleb is plunged into a nightmare where love, madness and murder are clasped in a lethal embrace – and untangling the truth could be the last thing he wants to do.”
Regular visitors to the blog may be familiar with my husband’s Christmas present to me for the past two years. One book, of his choosing, a month for the rest of the year. If you would like to see the list (until the start of this year, that is) then please click here. I’ve managed to read a few of them, but I want to read more! Which is why I’ve made it one of my #CaseClosed goals for the month – to read at least one of the books my husband has given me. This month I chose The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore.
The first thing I should say is that when I first started reading this book I couldn’t, for the life of me, work out when it was set. It has a historical feel to it and I only realised it was set in more modern times when ‘cell phones’ were mentioned (I expect there are several very obvious other indicators before this, but I completely missed them!). Despite knowing that this is a novel of modern times, you can’t help but question that knowledge at regular intervals throughout the story. The author has managed to bring the past and the present together in a somewhat beguiling tale.
Caleb Maddox, our lead protagonist, did little for me I’m afraid. I found his field of study extremely interesting but that was it. I wanted him to take control of his obsession with the bewitching Emmeline rather than waiting on her beck and call. His blatant neediness irritated me. But then, this is a love story as well as being a psychological thriller and regular readers will know by know how I feel about love stories in my books (thanks but no thanks!). Saying that, the relationship between the two characters was such a big part of the story that I was able to read and enjoy their odd relationship, to a degree.
The majority of the story is the love affair between Caleb and Emmeline. For me, the book didn’t really start until about three quarters of the way through, and then…WOW! What a totally unexpected ending. Brilliantly written, you finally get to the nitty gritty of these characters and they lay themselves bare. It’s fabulous reading, edgy, dark and full of the shock factor. Exactly what I want from a psychological thriller.
Would I recommend this book? I would but be prepared for a slow build. You watch Caleb Maddox and Emmeline intricately tango around each other for the first three quarters of the novel but then BAM! The ending hits and it all makes perfect sense. I wouldn’t hesitate to read another book by this author, they certainly know how to write an intoxicating tale.
Four out of five stars.
The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore was published in the UK by Orion Books on 10th March 2016 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |
Jonathan Moore is a Bram Stoker Award nominated author of five novels. His third novel, THE POISON ARTIST, was a selection of the BBC Radio 2 Book Club. His novels have been translated into seven languages.
Before graduating from law school in New Orleans, he lived in Taiwan for three years, guided whitewater raft trips on the Rio Grande, and worked as an investigator for a criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C. He has also been an English teacher, a bar owner, a counselor at a wilderness camp for juvenile delinquents, and a textbook writer.