Friday, April 6, 2018

A Beautiful Poison

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang  350 pp.

In the days of World War I and the Spanish influenza epidemic, a young New York socialite joins with two old friends to investigate a series of suspicious deaths / murders of friends and family members. The murders have similarities but are all performed by different means. Following each murder a note saying "You're welcome." is received by a person closest to the victim. The wealthy Allene Cutter reacquaints herself with Birdie, daughter of a former servant in the Cutter household, and Jasper whose wealthy upbringing was shattered when his parents lost their money and committed suicide. Together the threesome use their respective talents, and Jasper's job in the city morgue to figure out and put a stop to the deaths while trying to avoid the flu and, in Jasper's case, the draft. Many parts of the story are unbelievable but the intrigues, twists, and unexpected identity of the killer make it worth reading to the end. The author is an M.D. with familiarity with Bellevue Hospital and her medical knowledge shows in details of the story. However, her history is not quite accurate but can be chalked up to creative license. Birdie works in a factory painting the dials of watches with radium paint and is suffering serious effects of the then unknown radium poisoning. During that time period there wasn't a factory in New York making those watches and the first death of a "radium girl" did not occur until 1920 while the Spanish flu was mostly in 1918. My only other complaint is the audiobook narrator's repeated pronunciation of "the grippe" as "the gripe." I cringed every time I heard it.

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