Book Review: The Poisoned Island by Lloyd Shepherd

Author of The English Monster takes us on another voyage of discovery from Kew Gardens to the island of Otaheite by way of a murder investigation.LONDON 1812: For forty years Britain has dreamed of the Pacific island of Tahiti, a dark paradise of bloody cults and beautiful natives. Now, decades after the first voyage of Captain Cook, a new ship returns to London, crammed with botanical specimens and, it seems, the mysteries of Tahiti. When, days after the Solander’s arrival, some of its crew are found dead and their sea-chests ransacked – their throats slashed, faces frozen into terrible smiles – John Harriott, magistrate of the Thames river police, puts constable Charles Horton in charge of the investigation. But what connects the crewmen’s dying dreams with the ambitions of the ship’s principal backer, Sir Joseph Banks of the Royal Society? And how can Britain’s new science possibly explain the strangeness of Tahiti’s floral riches now growing at Kew? Horton must employ his singular methods to uncover a chain of conspiracy stretching all the way back to the foot of the great dead volcano Tahiti Nui, beneath the hungry eyes of ancient gods.’I loved it! Very stylish, very ingenious and very well-written’ Joanne Harris’Shepherd adroitly blurs fact and fiction with a hint of the fantastic, creating his own superior blend of historical crime fiction’ Financial Times ‘Georgian London is vividly brought to life … A gutsy, involving yarn’ Guardian

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My Review:

I had really high hopes for The Poisoned Island by Lloyd Shepherd.  Some of my most favorite reads involve adventures, ships on the high seas, island mysteries and folklore, and a touch of the supernatural, so you would think that The Poisoned Island would have been a home run.  And it came close – but ultimately fell short of the mark as I noticed my attention starting to wander more and more as I progressed through the story until I ultimately just didn’t care.  I’m really, really upset that this one didn’t work for me.

The story started out strong with some pretty mysterious murders happening and the disappearance of something from the trunks or belongings of the men murdered.  Add into that a story about a prince and his friend on an island and you have some pretty interesting beginnings.  Where the interesting stopped and the confusing part began is when the switching around started to happen before much of anything was going on in any of the stories.  I was curious, but not overly so, and therefore it was rough to continue to convince myself to pick up the book and start reading again.  I just didn’t care enough and when you have to start forcing yourself to read something … well, it’s just not a good thing.

It’s my understanding (although I didn’t do a whole lot of research on this) that there were fictional characters and characters based on real historical figures here.  I might have been more interested had I read Shepherd’s previous book, but it’s too late now and I don’t feel much of an urge to seek it out.  I would imagine that a reader with a lot of interest in the actual historical figures might find something more interesting in this story, but for a reader like me with little to no knowledge of the events, the ship, or the figures, it just didn’t have enough of a hold on my attention for it to merit a stellar review.

Still, for those interested in sailing adventures and mysteries, I would recommend giving The Poisoned Island a shot.  Just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for others, and I think there is enough merit in the story for you to give it a try.

Check out these reviews!

  • “THE POISONED ISLAND is a thoughtful, lyrical historical thriller that keeps the reader guessing until the very last page is turned.” – Fresh Fiction for Today’s Reader
  • “If you like your historical murder mysteries with atmosphere, well developed characters and an unusual plotline slowly unfolding like the leaves of some mysterious tropical island plant, then I would recommend you add this to your bookshelf.” – Caroles Book Corner
  • “This isn’t my favourite period of history, far from it, but if there’s any author that makes me want to know more about it, it’s Lloyd Shepherd. More, please!” –For Winter Nights


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