A tale of desire, obsession, and deadly mystery, with echoes of Vertigo
Dr. Caleb Maddox is a San Francisco toxicologist studying the chemical effects of pain. After a bruising breakup with his girlfriend, he is drinking whiskey at the speakeasy House of Shields when a hauntingly seductive woman appears by his side. Emmeline whispers to Caleb over absinthe, gets his blood on her fingers, and then brushes his ear with her lips as she says goodbye. He must find her.
As his search begins, Caleb becomes entangled in a serial murder investigation. The police are fishing men from the bay, and the postmortems are inconclusive. One man vanished from House of Shields the night Caleb met Emmeline. When questioned, Caleb can’t offer any information. But he is secretly helping the city’s medical examiner, an old friend, understand the chemical evidence on the victims’ remains. Caleb’s search for the killer soon entwines with his hunt for Emmeline, and the closer he gets to each, the more dangerous his world becomes.
The Poison Artist is a gripping literary thriller about obsession and damage, about a man unmoored by an unspeakable past and an irresistible woman who offers the ultimate escape.
The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore was a strange and compelling psychological thriller, which seemed to have a deeper element to it than is typical of some other books in this genre.
I loved how atmospheric this novel was; you’re never quite sure who is trying to help Caleb and who isn’t, and this leaves the reader feeling suitably unnerved. As the story went on you get the feeling that all is not as it seems, and you feel Caleb’s desperation and confusion with him as he sinks lower and lower.
We find out more and more about Caleb’s past, and I really liked how the author slowly revealed this with hints and clues. There is a strong air of mystery throughout, and the world around Caleb seems kind of warped and almost dream-like.
Caleb as a character I actually quite disliked. I found him hugely self-pitying, self-absorbed and felt awful for his ex girlfriend- yes, she may have broken up with him, but it took him no time to become obsessed with this other woman, Emmeline, and start comparing how he feels about each of them. I feel that this shows what a great author Jonathan Moore is, by creating a character that had a lot of (I felt) negative traits, but who you still really want to read more about.
This is a fairly creepy, atmospheric novel that I would really recommend to anyone wanting something a little different to read- I haven’t read anything quite like this and I really enjoyed it!
[My Review: 4/5]
** Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review. **
The Poison Artist will be released in the UK on March 10th 2016.