Saffron Everleigh is in a race against time to free her wrongly accused professor before he goes behind bars forever. Perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn and Anna Lee Huber, Kate Khavari’s debut historical mystery is a fast-paced, fearless adventure.
London, 1923. Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh attends a dinner party for the University College of London. While she expects to engage in conversations about the university’s large expedition to the Amazon, she doesn’t expect Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives to drop to the floor, poisoned by an unknown toxin.
Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor, is the main suspect, having had an explosive argument with Dr. Henry a few days prior. As evidence mounts against Dr. Maxwell and the expedition’s departure draws nearer, Saffron realizes if she wants her mentor’s name cleared, she’ll have to do it herself.
Joined by enigmatic Alexander Ashton, a fellow researcher, Saffron uses her knowledge of botany as she explores steamy greenhouses, dark gardens, and deadly poisons. Will she be able to uncover the truth or will her investigation land her on the murderer’s list?
This book is such a different take on the 1920s!
It focuses on the role of women in the university system in 1920s Great Britain. Well, the book isn’t about that, you know. It’s a mystery, with attempted murders, a few suspects, and many plants, including poisonous ones. But the protagonist, Saffron Everleigh, is a botanist who works as an assistant for a University of London professor.
This is the part that I enjoyed most. Through Saffron, I had the opportunity to experience what being a female researcher meant in the mid-1920s. At that time, women had just earned the right to get a degree from a British university, and everyone was still adjusting to the fact that women could indeed be as brilliant researchers as men – or even more brilliant, why not? The author gives this part of Saffron’s life a lot of space, even if it never becomes the story’s centre (which is the mystery), and I really enjoyed that.
I also loved the relationship between Saffron and Alexander. A great couple, if you ask me. It was always meant to become a romance, of course, but for most of this book, it is more of a budding relationship, which is also unusual in this kind of story, and I really, really enjoyed that.
The university setting is brilliant. The place, the fields of research and the way people went about it. I loved learning about the exploring expeditions, which were still a thing in the 1920s, and about the people who frequented the university. Everything is so vivid and so skillfully presented.
There’s a lot to this book apart from the murder. And that’s why I think it’s worth giving it a go.A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by @authorkkhavari (book review) As one of the very few female professors at the University of London, Saffron always knew she would face any sort of challenge. Murder wasn't supposed to be… Click To Tweet
A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons
They settled into a casual place for students Saffron had visited a number of times. Alexander and Saffron ordered pasta, and the waiter inquired whether they wanted wine.
“None for me,” Alexander said.
Saffron shook her head. “Nor me, thank you.”
The waiter vanished. Remembering the party and the full glass of scotch Alexander had tried to get rid of, Saffron said lightly, “I thought all hearty explorers scoffed at temperance.”
He shifted in his seat, eyes on his glass of water. “I avoid alcohol altogether whenever possible.”
Saffron’s mind jumped to her uncle, who had died after a night of heavy drinking when he returned from his deployment. Curiosity getting the better of her propriety, she asked, “After the War?”
His dark eyes stayed on his glass of water. “People have different ways of coping with whatever burdens they came back with. Alcohol is common enough.”
Saffron was glad he wasn’t looking at her, as he surely would have seen the surprise on her face. She had never heard anyone speak abotu lingering effects apart from in very general and impersonal terms, not even her family when her uncle died. Most found it embarrassing or too risky. It was difficult to maintain employment and relationships if people thought one was shell-shocked.
At once, she was terribly curious about the man across from her. What burdens had he borne, or might he still bear? It was clear he must have been injured, given the extensive scarring on his arm. Mindful of not wanting to come off as either pitying or nosy, she asked, “What would be your method of coping? If you don’t mind me asking?”
Alexander’s lips lifted in an enigmatic smile. “A few years ago I learned how to meditate from a professor who studied in Tibet. He taught me a breathing technique I find effective. It’s about controlling your breathing, your thoughts. Alcohol does the opposite.
His expression was neutral, and Saffron couldn’t tell if he was serious. It all sounded rather outlandish. He began on another topic before she could confirm it.
The Thursday Quotables was originally a weekly post created by Lisa Wolf for her book blog Bookshelf Fantasy . It isn’t a weekly post anymore, not even for Lisa, but just like her, I still love to share my favourite reads on Thursdays and I still use the original template which included an excerpt.