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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 2012
Well, we are so, so lucky that Ms Stratmann didn't follow her dreams and become an astronomer, as then the Victorian historical wonder that is the first of the Frances Doughty Mysteries might never have materialised. It cannot be stated enough how detailed the world of The Poisonous Seed appears as we meet our heroine and follow event after event that pulls her into some very un-lady-like pursuits. Captured in the whalebone corsetry of London society circa the early 1800s, Frances is forced to use every ounce of her not inconsiderable wit and common sense to navigate her course to discover how and why a loyal customer dies of strychnine poisoning found in medicine dispensed from the family apothecary.

You will find much to delight and inform in these pages, as Ms Stratmann reveals her coiled plot and colourful cast of characters. Loved it!

Now followed by The Daughters of Gentlemen: A Frances Doughty Mystery (Frances Doughty Mystery 2)
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2011
This was one of those books I didn't want to put down (even to walk home from the station, and I avoided walking into anything while reading as I walked!).

Written with a wealth of detail, in a style that evokes the atmosphere of London of the early 1880's and draws the reader into the day-to-day lives of the characters, to experience alongside them the events as they unfold.

If you like a good period-style murder mystery, in a book that delivers more than just the mystery, then this is probably the book for you. I know I shall be waiting eagerly for the next book in the series.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 March 2014
The prose style is clunky at the beginning, and to be honest it never rises above serviceable, but after a few chapters it became less jarring and I was able to focus on the story and character. Frances is an extremely likeable heroine; she's clever and dutiful, not overly emotional, and she has a profession.

She turns to detection to protect her father's name and reputation, and employs her brains and a terrier-like persistence. I really enjoyed the persistence aspect - she approached the case from a number of different angles, worrying away at it, searching out answers in all kinds of different places, using all kinds of methods.

She also becomes interested in the women's suffrage movement, which was rather nice to see - a lot of novels set in historical time periods tend to treat them as static set-pieces, so it was nice to see characters being invested in change. I thought, too, the story did a nice job of balancing a "modern" perspective with the mores of the era, Frances remaining very much a woman of her time but with ambitions that a modern audience can sympathise with. Overall, I thought the novel had a great period feel. I've never thought about pharmacies or pharmacists in the Victorian period, and I really enjoyed reading about it.

The mystery was a little over-complex - a few weeks later I can't actually remember who was guilty - but I very much enjoyed the book and will be continuing to purchase books by this author.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2013
I don't usually read crime fiction but I'm trying to widen my reading pool and thought the Victorian setting would work for me. The good news is, I managed to read it in one sitting, despite falling asleep several times - but only because I knew I wouldn't bother reading any further if I left it overnight.

I really don't understand the raving reviews posted here. The prose was clunky, the plot was so complex I found it impossible to believe so many risks paid off in the way they did; that so many critical coincidences should occur; and that Frances should strike lucky with two such obliging policemen - and that's before you even mention the two bizarre characters that appeared with useful information when there was no conceivable way for Frances to obtain it otherwise. And yet there was nothing meaningful going on beneath the murder story, no nuggets of wisdom or insightful observations to satisfy the soul. Very flat.

I wasn't at all convinced by either the characters or the time period in which the story is set. Throwing in a few historical facts and references to people like Dickens, and featuring plenty of obligatory servants, doesn't a good historical novel make.

I'm sure some of my criticisms (especially regarding the two bizarre characters - who clearly have something to do with the financial dealings she discovers while investigating the murder) will be addressed in the follow-up, but I won't be reading it to find out.

2.5 Generous Stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2012
Miss Frances Doughty works for her father in his chemist shop in late Victorian London. When a customer, Mr Garton, dies in suspicious circumstances after taking a potion bought in the premises, Mr Doughty falls under suspicion of negligence. Frances, however, is convinced that Mr Garton was murdered by other hands and sets about clearing her father's name.

Frances is a terrific literary creation: barred from practicing as a chemist herself because of her gender yet determined to succeed in a man's world; she is also endearingly vulnerable and feminine. The plot of murder and intrigue is complex, skilfully crafted and keeps the reader turning the page.

I have given four not five stars because there are some rather implausible and contrived plot devices such as women disguising themselves as men. But definitely recommended.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 2012
Having read Linda Stratmann's non fiction work, I was very excited to get my fingers on her first novel. And it does not disappoint. Victorian London comes alive under the author's watchful eye. The characters are well rounded and three dimensional. There is a depth in the story that is surprising for a first time novelist and wets my appetite for the next installment.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2012
Bayswater, 1880: nineteen-year-old Frances Doughty runs her father's household and assists him in his chemist's shop. Her father, though only middle-aged, is an emotional and physical wreck following the recent death of his only son, and, when a prosperous customer dies of strychnine poisoning having taken one of Doughty's remedies, it's assumed that it's due to an accidental dosage error. But Frances who, although unqualified, has years of pharmacy experience, knows that that's impossible and, failing to convince the authorities of this, sets out to prove it herself.

In the interest of full disclosure I should note that I know the author slightly, in a friend-of-a-friend sort of way; in fact, I bought the book mainly to show support, not without some qualms in case it turned out to be terrible, which would have been embarrassing. In fact, it's not: it's extremely good, with a tight, complex plot and a neat resolution, and a straightforward and extremely readable writing style. It's well-researched, but flows naturally and is impressively faithful to the period in which it's set.

Whilst I doubt this was the author's intention, the book's also a timely reminder of life before the Welfare State, where a family could be comfortably off one day and in the workhouse the next. Let's do our best not to go back to that, eh?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 15 November 2012
I read this on holiday having got it very cheap on the Kindle. I wasn't expecting too much never having come across the book or the author before but I found myself quite engrossed.

Frances Doughty is an engaging character and so were those around her. She works in the pharmacy owned by her father. She almost became a trained pharmacist herself but had to give up to do what women were expected to do, namely nurse her sick brother and afterwards her poorly father.

The story revolves around the death of 'a gentleman' and the medicine he took, which came from the Doughty's pharmacy is looked on suspiciously. Frances has to clear her father's name if she is not to see their world crumble into ignominy.

There are quite a few strands to the story and I got a little confused with the who is who but it all came together at the end.

I will definitely try book 2 of the series.
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on 7 December 2014
I have read quite a few mystery books lately but this is the best for a long time. I could empathise with the main character Frances, and little details and additions led to add authenticity to the story such as the details about strychnine. There was maybe a couple of small continuity issues but then I am over zealous in this sort of thing and it does not deter my 5 star rating or recommendation.
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on 15 October 2015
Lots of unexpected endless twists and turns. Frances Doughty is a very intelligent, interesting, loyal and persistent character who never gives up. You think you know whodunnit but you will be left full of surprises. True to the word mystery, thoroughly enjoyed it and would read other titles by this author. Highly recommend this murder, mystery.
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