The Lost Apothecary

Sarah Penner

fiction historical thriller
challenging mysterious fast-paced

352 pages | first published 2021

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.

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.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits 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 patron 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 finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over 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.

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mysterious 81%
adventurous 56%
dark 34%
emotional 32%
reflective 21%
tense 18%
sad 14%
hopeful 13%
inspiring 13%
informative 11%
challenging 5%
lighthearted 4%
funny 0%
relaxing 0%


medium 53%
fast 34%
slow 11%

Plot- or character-driven?

A mix: 52% | Plot: 24% | Character: 23%

Strong character development?

Yes: 66% | No: 19% | It's complicated: 13% | N/A: 0%

Loveable characters?

Yes: 59% | It's complicated: 24% | No: 15%

Diverse cast of characters?

No: 82% | Yes: 9% | It's complicated: 4% | N/A: 3%

Flaws of characters a main focus?

Yes: 61% | No: 22% | It's complicated: 15%

Average rating