A bottle of purple liquid marked poison sits on a brown wooden table

Book Review: The Poisoner’s Ring

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a series—at least one that intentionally picks up where the previous book left off. So when I received the ARC for Kelley Armstrong’s A Rip Through Time last year, I was actually a little disappointed that there wasn’t a conclusion to the big mystery and that I was going to have to wait until the next book came out to see what happened with our heroine Mallory and her boss Dr. Duncan Grey. I’m happy to report that The Poisoner’s Ring, said sequel, will be in stores May 23 and that you’ll be sucked right into the Victorian era like you never left.

Edinburgh, 1869: Modern-day homicide detective Mallory Atkinson is adjusting to her new life in Victorian Scotland. Her employers know she’s not housemaid Catriona Mitchell―even though Mallory is in Catriona’s body―and Mallory is now officially an undertaker’s assistant. Dr. Duncan Gray moonlights as a medical examiner, and their latest case hits close to home. Men are dropping dead from a powerful poison, and all signs point to the grieving widows… the latest of which is Gray’s oldest sister.

Poison is said to be a woman’s weapon, though Mallory has to wonder if it’s as simple as that. But she must tread carefully. Every move the household makes is being watched, and who knows where the investigation will lead.

I would suggest reading what I thought about the first book in the series, A Rip Through Time, because everything I said there still applies to this story. I’m not going to repeat myself about those points. Though I’m giving this the same rating as its prequel, I will admit that I liked the first book in the series a bit better than this one.

What didn’t work for me

Mallory’s change in language: One of the things I liked a lot about the first book was that she struggled to learn the 19th-century language and that is more or less gone in this book because her inner circle has more or less accepted her 21st-century way of speaking. It makes her seem less…charming? I’m not sure if that’s the word exactly, but a lot of what she says would absolutely not make sense to the people around her and though she does reexplain it a lot of the time, I still think it doesn’t work as well.

The detective work: I didn’t really know what to call this, but related to the point above, Mallory does a lot of her detective work like she’s in the 21st century and the people around her just accept what she’s telling them without really questioning it or verifying in whatever way they would. It works in the story because she’s clearly a very good detective (almost too good—she’s rarely wrong) but I wished not everything came to her so easily.

What I liked

The development of the case: Though I did guess who the poisoner was pretty early on, the way it all came to be and the reason behind it came together in a way that was unexpected (to me, anyway). There were some unnecessary characters in there that ended up being red herrings, which added to the complexity. It kept me guessing and into it the whole way through.

Duncan and Mallory: We’re being so patient with these two, but the very, very (very!) slow burn between them is palpable and jumping off the page. I can’t wait to see how they continue to develop together as the series continues.

I cannot wait until the third (and maybe final, I don’t actually know) book comes out—I know I have a long wait ahead of me!


A grainy photo of a Victorian woman with her back turned. There's a grainy image of a blonde woman who's back is to the camera with her face turned is at the top left corner as an inset image.

“Not knowing when—or if—I can get back. I do have a life I need to return to. If I didn’t, I’d stay. I’ve been so lucky. I can’t imagine landing in a better place.” —Kelley Armstrong, The Poisoner’s Ring

Thank you to NetGalley, St Martin’s Press and Minotaur Books for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.


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