A botanist's guide to parties and poisons

Kate Khavari

Book - 2022

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?

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Detective and mystery fiction
Historical fiction
New York : Crooked Lane 2022.
Main Author
Kate Khavari (author)
First edition
Physical Description
262 pages ; 22 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Set in 1923, Khavari's appealing debut and series launch introduces Saffron Everleigh, University College London's only female botanist researcher. One evening, Saffron attends a dinner party hosted by Sir Edward Leister, the donor supporting the biology department's forthcoming Amazon expedition. At one point amid the small talk, Mrs. Henry, the wife of the expedition's leader, collapses. When it turns out that Mrs. Henry was fatally poisoned by a rare plant-based toxin, Saffron's mentor, Dr. Maxwell, who's a rare supporter of women's right to higher education, becomes the prime suspect. Saffron sets out to find the killer to save Dr. Maxwell and the Amazonian expedition, assisted by fellow botanist Alexander Ashton, a battle-fatigued WWI veteran. The duo investigate rancorous academic rivalries, libidinous faculty members, and gardens and greenhouses filled with lethal plants. Meanwhile, Saffron discovers an intriguing research paper written by her late father, a well-respected botanist, but will she survive long enough to learn more? The potpourri of fascinating botanical lore and the vivid London setting more than make up for some uneven pacing and awkward plotting. Khavari is off to a promising start. (June)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Khavari's intriguing mystery promises to be the start of an engaging new series. The tale is set in 1923 London, and listeners will meet Saffron Everleigh, a charming, quick-witted academic turned sleuth, who endeavors to prove that her mentor, Dr. Maxwell, is innocent of fatally poisoning a dinner guest. What Saffron lacks in wisdom, she makes up for in determination, as she meticulously employs her science-based research skills to ferret out every clue. She is joined by her colleague, Alexander Ashton, who appears to be helpful and bright, though unsettling rumors imply that he may not be all that he seems. Narrator Jodie Harris gives Saffron an inquisitive, determined voice that exudes authority when she speaks of botany and poison, but allows the perfect amount of uncertainty to creep in when she enters unfamiliar territory. Harris's self-assured delivery inspires trust in Saffron's skills and knowledge as she delivers fascinating details about 1920s scientific research methods and knowledge. Most importantly, once the culprit is revealed, the mystery proves to be cleverly conceived and satisfying. VERDICT The mixture of niche mystery elements (cozy, historical, academic) combined with Harris's appealing narration make this debut a must-buy for audio mystery collections.--Matthew Galloway

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A woman fights for recognition in 1923 London. Saffron Everleigh is following in her late father's footsteps as a botanist at University College London. Though she's alienated her family and been sexually harassed by department head Dr. Berking, she refuses to give up her job as assistant to Dr. Maxwell, who's supported her ambitions. At a party for faculty, wives, and donors, she meets the attractive and accomplished microbiologist Alexander Ashton. The party features all the obligatory backbiting, but Saffron hardly expects to overhear a conversation about the various affairs of Dr. Henry, one of the professors, or watch as Mrs. Henry collapses, quite possibly poisoned. When the police seize on Dr. Maxwell as the killer, Saffron begins poking around with some help from Ashton. Noticing that someone has taken a cutting from a dangerous plant Dr. Maxwell brought back from Mexico years ago that's taken over a large part of one of the greenhouses, she does the same, drinks an infusion made from the cutting, and blacks out just as Ashton enters the office. They both watch in fascinated horror as the symptoms described in Dr. Maxwell's journal slowly appear. Saffron refuses a doctor, even as paralyzing blue lines travel up her body, since the journal says the plant's effects will be temporary. Even more determined to prove Dr. Maxwell innocent, the two sleuths look for a motive connected to his expedition and find more than they expected. An exciting debut with a determined protagonist whose future is sure to contain romance and mystery. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.