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171 pages

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The novel has been translated into 40 languages. Kate Morton meets The Miniaturist. New York Times Bestseller. Longlisted for The Historical Writers
Association Awards. Soon to be a TV series created by FOX. New title The London Séance Society to follow in 2023.



Publié par
Date de parution 02 mars 2021
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781789558982
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0300€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Legend Press Ltd, 51 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6HJ info@legendpress.co.uk | www.legendpress.co.uk
Contents Sarah Penner 2021 The right of the above author to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data available.
First published in the USA in 2021 by Harlequin Books S.A., Park Row Books, 22 Adelaide St. West, 40th Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5H 4E3, Canada www.ParkRowBooks.com
Print ISBN 978-1-78955-8-975 Ebook ISBN 978-1-78955-8-982 Cover design by Elita Sidiropoulou Map design by Gudrun Jobst | www.yotedesign.com Set in Times. Printing managed by Jellyfish Solutions Ltd
All characters, other than those clearly in the public domain, and place names, other than those well-established such as towns and cities, are fictitious and any resemblance is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. Any person who commits any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary , which has been sold into eleven territories worldwide. Sarah works full-time in finance. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida with their miniature dachshund, Zoe.
Follow Sarah @SL Penner
Or visit www.SarahPenner.com
For my parents
-Ancient Apothecary s Oath
February 3, 1791
S he would come at daybreak - the woman whose letter I held in my hands, the woman whose name I did not yet know.
I knew neither her age nor where she lived. I did not know her rank in society nor the dark things of which she dreamed when night fell. She could be a victim or a transgressor. A new wife or a vengeful widow. A nursemaid or a courtesan.
But despite all that I did not know, I understood this: the woman knew exactly who she wanted dead.
I lifted the blush-colored paper, illuminated by the dying flame of a single rush wick candle. I ran my fingers over the ink of her words, imagining what despair brought the woman to seek out someone like me. Not just an apothecary, but a murderer. A master of disguise.
Her request was simple and straightforward. For my mistress s husband, with his breakfast. Daybreak, 4 Feb . At once, I drew to mind a middle-aged housemaid, called to do the bidding of her mistress. And with an instinct perfected over the last two decades, I knew immediately the remedy most suited to this request: a chicken egg laced with nux vomica .
The preparation would take mere minutes; the poison was within reach. But for a reason yet unknown to me, something about the letter left me unsettled. It was not the subtle, woodsy odor of the parchment or the way the lower left corner curled forward slightly, as though once damp with tears. Instead, the disquiet brewed inside of me . An intuitive understanding that something must be avoided.
But what unwritten warning could reside on a single sheet of parchment, shrouded beneath pen strokes? None at all, I assured myself; this letter was no omen. My troubling thoughts were merely the result of my fatigue - the hour was late - and the persistent discomfort in my joints.
I drew my attention to my calfskin register on the table in front of me. My precious register was a record of life and death; an inventory of the many women who sought potions from here, the darkest of apothecary shops.
In the front pages of my register, the ink was soft, written with a lighter hand, void of grief and resistance. These faded, worn entries belonged to my mother. This apothecary shop for women s maladies, situated at 3 Back Alley, was hers long before it was mine.
On occasion I read her entries - 23 Mar 1767, Mrs. R. Ranford, Yarrow Milfoil 15 dr. 3x - and the words evoked memories of her: the way her hair fell against the back of her neck as she ground the yarrow stem with the pestle, or the taut, papery skin of her hand as she plucked seeds from the flower s head. But my mother had not disguised her shop behind a false wall, and she had not slipped her remedies into vessels of dark red wine. She d had no need to hide. The tinctures she dispensed were meant only for good: soothing the raw, tender parts of a new mother, or bringing menses upon a barren wife. Thus, she filled her register pages with the most benign of herbal remedies. They would raise no suspicion.
On my register pages, I wrote things such as nettle and hyssop and amaranth, yes, but also remedies more sinister: nightshade and hellebore and arsenic. Beneath the ink strokes of my register hid betrayal, anguish and dark secrets.
Secrets about the vigorous young man who suffered an ailing heart on the eve of his wedding, or how it came to pass that a healthy new father fell victim to a sudden fever. My register laid it all bare: these were not weak hearts and fevers at all, but thorn apple juice and nightshade slipped into wines and pies by cunning women whose names now stained my register.
Oh, but if only the register told my own secret, the truth about how this all began. For I had documented every victim in these pages, all but one: Frederick . The sharp, black lines of his name defaced only my sullen heart, my scarred womb.
I gently closed the register, for I had no use of it tonight, and returned my attention to the letter. What worried me so? The edge of the parchment continued to catch my eye, as though something crawled beneath it. And the longer I remained at my table, the more my belly ached and my fingers trembled. In the distance, beyond the walls of the shop, the bells on a carriage sounded frighteningly similar to the chains on a constable s belt. But I assured myself that the bailiffs would not come tonight, just as they had not come for the last two decades. My shop, like my poisons, was too cleverly disguised. No man would find this place; it was buried deep behind a cupboard wall at the base of a twisted alleyway in the darkest depths of London.
I drew my eyes to the soot-stained wall that I had not the heart, nor the strength, to scrub clean. An empty bottle on a shelf caught my reflection. My eyes, once bright green like my mother s, now held little life within them. My cheeks, too, once flushed with vitality, were sallow and sunken. I had the appearance of a ghost, much older than my forty-one years of age.
Tenderly, I began to rub the round bone in my left wrist, swollen with heat like a stone left in the fire and forgotten. The discomfort in my joints had crawled through my body for years; it had grown so severe, I lived not a waking hour without pain. Every poison I dispensed brought a new wave of it upon me; some evenings, my fingers were so distended and stiff, I felt sure the skin would split open and expose what lay underneath.
Killing and secret-keeping had done this to me. It had begun to rot me from the inside out, and something inside meant to tear me open.
At once, the air grew stagnant, and smoke began to curl into the low stone ceiling of my hidden room. The candle was nearly spent, and soon the laudanum drops would wrap me in their heavy warmth. Night had long ago fallen, and she would arrive in just a few hours: the woman whose name I would add to my register and whose mystery I would begin to unravel, no matter the unease it brewed inside of me.
Present day, Monday
I wasn t supposed to be in London alone.
Celebratory anniversary trips are meant for two, not one, yet as I stepped out of the hotel into the bright light of a summer afternoon in London, the empty space next to me said otherwise. Today - our tenth wedding anniversary - James and I should have been together, making our way to the London Eye, the observation wheel overlooking the River Thames. We d booked a nighttime ride in a VIP capsule, replete with a bottle of sparkling wine and a private host. For weeks, I d imagined the dimly lit capsule swaying under the starry sky, our laughter punctuated only by the clinking of our champagne glasses and the touching of our lips.
But James was an ocean away. And I was in London alone, grieving and furious and jet-lagged, with a life-changing decision to make.
Instead of turning south toward the London Eye and the river, I headed in the opposite direction toward St. Paul s and Ludgate Hill. Keeping my eyes open for the nearest pub, I felt every bit a tourist in my gray sneakers and crossbody tote bag. My notebook rested inside, the pages covered in blue ink and doodled hearts with an outline of our ten-day itinerary. I d only just arrived, and yet I couldn t bear to read through our made-for-two agenda and the playful notes we d written to one another. Southwark, couples garden tour , I d written on one of the pages.
Practice making baby behind a tree , James had scribbled next to it. I d planned to wear a dress, just in case.
Now I no longer needed the notebook, and I d discarded every plan within. The back of my throat began to burn, tears approaching, as I wondered what else may soon be discarded. Our marriage? James was my college sweetheart; I didn t know life without him. I didn t know myself without him. Would I lose, too, my hopes for a baby? The idea of it made my stomach ache with want of more than just a decent meal. I longe

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