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 feminist twist that heralds the coming of an explosive new talent.
Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.
"In The Lost Apothecary, Sarah Penner convincingly weaves three heroines and two timelines into one tale of poison, revenge, and the silent network of women helping other women in a world stacked against them.... A bold, edgy, accomplished debut!"
—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network and The Huntress
One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella waits for her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new customer turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.
In present day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she discovers an old apothecary vial in the River Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’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 exploration of women rebelling against a man’s world, the destructive force of revenge, and the remarkable ways that women can save each other despite the barrier of time.