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Dark Asylum (Jem Flockhart Book 2) by [Thomson, E. S.]
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Dark Asylum (Jem Flockhart Book 2) Kindle Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Length: 384 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

Beloved Poison is a marvellous, vivid book with a thoughtful, engaging protagonist at its centre - and a fascinating story to tell. It's immaculately researched and breathtakingly dark. Elaine Thomson's descriptive powers are so great that that I was surprised to see twenty-first century London rather than grimy, smelly St Saviour's around me when I - eventually - looked up from its pages (Janet Ellis, author of The Butcher’s Hook)

Beloved Poison is a marvellous, vivid book with a thoughtful, engaging protagonist at its centre - and a fascinating story to tell. It's immaculately researched and breathtakingly dark. Elaine Thomson's descriptive powers are so great that that I was surprised to see twenty-first century London rather than grimy, smelly St Saviour's around me when I - eventually - looked up from its pages (Janet Ellis, author of The Butcher's Hook )

You can almost feel the evil miasma rising from the page (Kirkus Reviews on Beloved Poison)

This outstanding debut historical enthrals with its meticulously researched details (Library Journal on Beloved Poison)

From the first page to the last, I enjoyed every brilliantly written, and often hideous, detail ... A splendid read (Cambridge Magazine on Beloved Poison)

Here's a tale of Victorian London to freeze your blood on a cold winter's night (Alex Gordon Evening Telegraph on Beloved Poison)

A historical novel to be savoured (Lesley McDowell The National on Beloved Poison)

Book Description

Set in a crumbling Victorian asylum where a gruesome murder is committed, this novel deals with the early 'science' of brain study and lobotomy, as well as giving a chilling insight into the asylum's workings, inmates and doctors, many of whom are more insane than their poor patients.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1566 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (2 Mar. 2017)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01LXHGPP3
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #193,108 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Hardcover
It is 1852 and St Saviour’s monastery in London is no more, its hospital relocated. But Jem Flockhart, the apothecary to the infirmary, has stayed behind thanks to roots too deeply embedded. Jem isn’t quite what he seems, and not only because of the large birthmark that obscures the top half of his face like a Venetian mask. Jem is a woman, brought up as a boy and then a young man by a father who turned mad. And now Jem works as apothecary in the place where her father died, the Angel Meadow Asylum across the road from what survives of the monastery and Jem’s beloved infirmary garden.

The head doctor of Angel Meadows, Dr Hawkins, has been away for some time, having left the care of the asylum in the hands of Dr Rutherford, a man with his own brutal theories about the ways in which to treat the souls in his care. Few mourn when, on Dr Hawkins’ return to the asylum, Dr Rutherford is found murdered in his rooms. But this is no typical murder – Rutherford’s head is bashed in, his ears cut off, his eyes and lips are sewn shut. There will be many suspects, not all of whom are locked in their rooms at night, and Dr Hawkins gives the case to Jem and his close friend Will Quartermain. Jem and Will have proven their detective skills already and both are indefatigable in their pursuit of truth and justice as they move through a society that is as black as night for its cruelty, madness and punishment.

Dark Asylum is the second novel to feature Jem and Will. It follows close on the heels of Beloved Poison, an outstanding historical crime debut from E.S. Thomson. Each book stands alone well but I certainly recommend that you read them both.

Dark Asylum takes us into a part of Victorian London at its very worst.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a tale of almost Gothick horror, which features a young medical apothecary trying to find who killed the senior physician at a gloomy and grotesque hospital for the mentally ill in Victorian London. Jem Flockhart is not what he seems, however. Mr Flockhart is actually a Miss, as he was born female, a surviving twin. For reasons that are not immediately clear, her father switched her with the stillborn brother at birth – a birth which was so traumatic that it killed the mother. Now an adult, helped by her lack of obvious feminine sexual characteristics, she has carved out for herself a persona as a respected medical gentleman and herbalist, a position which, given the prevailing nineteenth century attitude towards women in the medical profession, would have otherwise been unattainable.

Jem, and her companion Will Quartermain – who is unequivocally male – are summoned to view the body of Doctor Rutherford who is found with his ears cut off and stuffed in his mouth, a surgical implement jammed fatally into his brain, and his lips and eyes sewn shut with crudely executed surgical stitches. Amid the carnage, there is no shortage of suspects. The other doctors attached to the asylum are jealous of Rutherford’s eminence, but scathing about his obsession that phrenology – the study of the contours of the skull – is the only true means of understanding mental illness.

As I got further into the book, I was beginning to wonder just what the point was of having Jem Flockhart cross-dressing, as it didn’t seem to have any real bearing on events. Just at the point when I was about to dismiss the idea as a conceit, Thomson delivered a beautifully written scene which made sense of Flockhart’s subterfuge, and added extra poignancy to the relationship between Jem and Will.
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Format: Hardcover
Dark Asylum builds on the exceptional promise of Beloved Poison. Once more, E.S. Thomson has produced a tightly plotted mystery, enlivened by evocative prose, pervaded by a wonderfully gothic atmosphere, which never appears less than wholly authentic. The characters, even the occasional grotesque, who fit the Dickensian mood very well, are treated with understanding and sympathy. At no point do they descend to caricature. While many passages grip, to the extent that I ended a bus journey with great reluctance as it meant interrupting my reading, there are also the moments of real humour that make E.S. Thomson's work so satisfying. The further career of Mrs Roseplucker is a particular highlight. Having given Beloved Poison five stars, I find that I rate Dark Asylum even higher. But, as five stars are all one is allowed, five it must be. I await the TV/film adaptation eagerly.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Another phenomenally accomplished novel by writer E S Thompson. It is meticulously researched in every conceivable dimension yet is effortlessly and addictively readable. At times it is harrowingly gruesome and disturbingly macabre but ultimately enlightening. The reader comes to empathise with the characters, questioning the definition of victim and further analysing it in the context of the complexity of social and gender inequalities of the period which are still relevant to our constant re-evaluation of gender in the 21st Century. It's a 'must read'.
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