ARC Review: “A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons,” by Kate Khavari

Hello friends, and welcome to my newest installation of “late ARCs!” This week we have A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari, out now as of June, a delightful debut of murder and academia set in 1920s England. Here was a refreshing murder, with heroine botanist Saffron finding herself investigating a murder to clear her mentor’s name, which she was present for. I am so happy to receive this from Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books. so without further ado…


From the Publisher:

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?


What I Loved:

  • The Setting. Ala mid-Agatha Christie era, 1920s England is bustling and full of change. Saffron is one of the only female botanists at the college and has to claw her way into her position, the women’s rights movement is boiling in the background, post-World War I technology and society is booming, and the UK is at its most glamourous. I love watching Saffron navigating her world, her interactions with Alex and Dr. Maxwell, and how it is all coloured by the time. I also loved the place – the house parties, beautiful college halls and dusty labs.
  • The Characters. Kate Khavari writes a great, complex character. Saffron is spunky but quiet, stubborn but meek, and impetuous but viewed as too careful. Alex is broody and dreamy but with demons, Dr. Maxwell is a man worthy of inspiring the utmost loyalty, and even the “bumbling policemen” and richly imagined. It is easy to like (and at times dislike) each character and understand their complexities.
  • The Mystery. Without getting into spoiler territory, the mystery was the perfect blend of hard to solve but also solvable if you pay attention. Very Christie.

What Didn’t Work as Well:

  • The Amount of Characters. While each character worked in their own right, there was simply too many to keep up with, especially in a “closed door” mystery. The director, the wife, the mistress, professors and assistants, and various other suspects / stakeholders, it was a bit much to keep track of and made the mystery more convoluted than necessary.
  • The Pace. While Botanist’s Guide was generally engaging and exciting, the middle dragged while Saffron and Alex were investigating and going through a series of misunderstandings between them. I get frustrated with the miscommunication trope, and the contributed to the slow pace.

Conclusion:

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons was delightful and refreshing, with a sassy female lead and engaging romance. I highly recommend to lovers of historical fiction (mystery or otherwise) and clean romance lovers. 4.5 waves! Pick up your copy of this beautifully covered book here (that’s what I did immediately after reading!)

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