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4.4 out of 5 stars30
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 14 November 2015
I previously read The English Monster which I thought a good debut. This novel follows on from that one but also works as a standalone. Thankfully the author relied less upon supernatural goings-on in this novel, though there are some unexplained occurences, none of which are adequately explained.

I find Shepard's style of writing fairly hard-going and often have to force myself to keep reading, or to reread entire passages. I think this is because I usually read contemporary literature whereas Shepard writes in a style befitting the period in which the stories are set. Clearly, this was his intention, and he would no doubt have been criticised had he chosen to write in a more modern style - so I feel a little unfair saying this. However, for me, one of the marks of a good novel is that you fall so deeply into it that you forget you're reading at all. Unfortunately that wasn't the case for me with this book or its predecessor, and neither is it the case with his latest title, Savage Magic, which I'm almost halfway through.

That said, there's obviously something that keeps me reading: Shepard does a good job of highlighting some of the murkier aspects of British history, giving the stories additional weight. Characterisation is fairly well accomplished, though I have to say I find it difficult to feel any real connection with anyone, even Abigail.

Unfortunately some of Shepard's metaphors seem unnatural, irrelevant or unnecessary. He also tells rather than shows too often for my liking, and I wish he'd remove some of the unnecessary adjectives. He uses two when one would suffice or when none are required. It doesn't help the flow of the text, serving only to lengthen already wordy sentences.

Finally, I wasn't entirely convinced by the ending (the bit involving Horton's wife) which leads neatly into the next book.

(SPOILER ALERT!) Would the intelligent wife of a police constable really consume an unknown substance given to her by a stranger? I think not... Also, use of entheogens is most often associated with the opposite kind of result to the one described in the story. This didn't sit comfortably with me, especially when the historical elements seem to have been well researched and accurately presented. Disappointing....

3 Stars
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 2 March 2013
The Poisoned Island is so much more than an excellent piece of historical fiction. Set at the start of the nineteenth century and introducing the crew of the Solander, recently returned from a botanical expedition to Tahiti, the storyline quickly develops into a murder mystery. Trying to piece together the grisly clues are the River Police detection team of Horton and Harriott, who return from Shepherd's strong debut book, The English Monster.

What I particularly liked about this book was not only the fascinating plot, (the link to the health of 'Mad King' George III was really clever), but also the fast-paced story line. I'm quite an intensive reader and this is one of those books that grabs you immediately and a book around which you find yourself adjusting your schedule to read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2013
First of all I should perhaps make clear that I havent read "The English Monster" which precedes this novel but it did not detract from my enjoyment of "The Poisoned Island" one bit.

LONDON 1812: For forty years Britain has dreamed of the Pacific island of Tahiti, a dark paradise of bloody cults and beautiful natives. Now, decades after the first voyage of Captain Cook, a new ship returns to London, crammed with botanical specimens and, it seems, the mysteries of Tahiti.
When, days after the Solander's arrival, some of its crew are found dead and their sea-chests ransacked - their throats slashed, faces frozen into terrible smiles, John Harriott, magistrate of the Thames river police, puts constable Charles Horton in charge of the investigation.

The way I would describe this novel in one word is "Rich". The prose is terrific and draws you straight into another world. Characterisation is top notch and as someone who doesnt really "do" historical fiction I was immediately hooked. The streets of London live in this book - familiar places but with an unfamiliar way of living, the sense of place is amazing. The mystery is intriguing...and although I know absolutely nothing about this period in History it all felt very authentic.

Its difficult to review this book - another one where almost anything you would love to say will probably include spoilers...I think I'm just going to leave with this. If you are looking for something highly intriguing, a little bit different to the norm and have an interest in History then this one is for you. Certainly, although I am late to the party, I shall be picking up a copy of "The English Monster" soon. Nicely done Mr Shepherd.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the copy of this book via netgalley

Happy Reading Folks!
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on 26 August 2015
Having always been fascinated by Captain Cook and Joseph Banks ( no, my son is not called Endeavour!) and being a devotee of historical whodunnits I thought I'd give this a try. Really glad I did. The plot centres around a ship full of botanical specimens being brought back to London from Tahiti - destination Bank's Kew Gardens, and an outbreak of ferocious murders. The twists and turns and the characterisations keep you turning the page. Yes, I could work out what was coming next but that didn't affect my enjoyment. It was a great read for a horrible rainy day. Nice to find a whodunnit that was set in a time other than the Tudors. I'll certainly look out for other books by this author.
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on 21 July 2015
Another good offering from an author who knows how to write. He knows so well that from an infinitesimal thread he is able to weave a story of more than 370 pages. It's amazing when you've reached the end and try to organise your thoughts about the book how few actual facts and elements he actually needs to create a well crafted tale. The sum total of plot elements could be written down on a postage stamp and yet Lloyd Sheperd spins and spins, uses diversions and circuitous routes in his circumlocutary prose so that by the end of the day, just like the magic tree in his opus, a whole world has emerged. I'm not sure I don't usually prefer a more substantial story but it works nevertheless.
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on 23 May 2015
Excellent. As with the first novel in this series, well written, exciting and totally captivating. the tale excellently blends fact and fiction to create a totally plausible and brilliantly portrayed world of intrigue, mystery and tension. I loved the English Monster, and can't wait for the next one.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2013
At the start of the book we are introduced to some of the crew of the Solander who have recently returned from Tahiti. Their ship contained hundreds of exotic plants all destined for Kew Gardens. One of them is Sam Ransome who 'enjoyed the delights of the island', and who, upon reaching his lodgings, immediately puts the kettle on and makes himself a cup of tea and is 'blissfully happy'. Unfortunately for Sam he is found strangled soon after but with a huge smile on his face!

More of the crew are found murdered in a similar way and constable Charles Horton is struggling to find a motive, a killer or a possible connection to their deaths.

This is an intelligent and well written story with interesting characters. Lloyd Shepherd's earlier book The English Monster also features Horton and his boss, John Harriott, and several references are made to those murders in this book.

If you like your historical murder mysteries with atmosphere, well developed characters and an unusual plotline slowly unfolding like the leaves of some mysterious tropical island plant, then I would recommend you add this to your bookshelf.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 6 December 2013
I enjoy books which are a little different and The Poisoned Island certainly delivers.
The ship 'Solander' arrives at London docks in 1812 packed full of botanical specimens from Tahiti and destined for the gardens at Kew where they are eagerly awaited by Sir Joseph Banks and his librarian Robert Brown. Most of the crew leave for their lodgings in East London to spend their money and indulge themselves at the end of the long voyage. Shortly thereafter some of the crew are found dead in their squalid surroundings and John Harriot and his Constable Charles Horton of the Thames river police are assigned to the case.
The story takes us from London to the 'Paradise' island of Tahiti with all its attractions - it touches upon the voyages of Captain Cook and William Bligh, the passions of Joseph Banks and even the madness of King George. A fascinating blend of fact and fiction skilfully blended together and difficult to separate. An excellent read - I will be looking for other books by this author.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2013
This is a fantastic read. Whether you are a fan of historical fiction or of CSI, there is something here for everyone. Shepherd has really stepped up on his first novel, "The English Monster", which is also a cracking read by the way. The Poisoned Island is a murder mystery that hooks the reader from start to finish, whilst at the same time educating us into some of the murkier aspects of British colonialist and scientific history. I picked this up and had finished it within a couple of days - not my usual style. I am very much looking forward to the next instalment of Horton and Harriott, the original detectives, who could easily become the next Holmes and Watson. You will love it!
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 March 2013
"Near the foot of great Tahiti Nui, in the shadow of the dead volcano and beneath the hungry eyes of ancient gods, the young Englishman chased his princess through the forest, despite the best efforts of the forest to stop him."
This powerfully written beginning gives a taste of events on the island visited by Captain Cook and subsequently exploited for its botanical specimens. The strength of writing in the first chapter of The Poisoned Island ensures you will read on to discover how the innocence and beauty of the island of Tahiti is linked with more hideous killings for Constable Horton and John Harriott - Magistrate of the Thames River Police- to ponder. As in Shepherd's first novel 'The English Monster' these men delve into hideous and unexplained violence which the River Thames presents to them. Meticulous research lies behind the historical and geographical credibility of both threads of plot and (often not the case in parallel plot novels) both are equally vivid and enjoyable to read while contrasting in atmosphere.

Is the story an allegory for the embarrassment we should feel as a nation for our exploitation of other people and places in the past. If so it is finely and subtly woven within events set in motion when ships return carrying their botanical riches and Sir Joseph Banks of the Royal Society works to further botanical knowledge. After reading 'The Poisoned Island' you may wander somewhat uneasily through the glasshouses of Kew.
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