A mysterious island in the Pacific, its inhabitants fighting for survival amidst the arrival of European travellers; the emerging wonders of the gardens at Kew; the ship Solander back from a mission; a Magistrate and his constable … oh, and a few gruesome deaths to add to the fun. All linked within a story that will want you to read through the night.
The Poisoned Island is the second offering from Lloyd Shepherd which allows us back into the world of Magistrate Harriott and his faithful constable Horton. His first book, The English Monster, was so good that to be honest I wondered just how this follow-up would cope. That all too difficult second novel can make you or break you. And luckily I think this may just be the former.
To start off with, and I’m going to be fickle here, the cover is fabulous. I know, you can’t judge a book and all that, but I love the way that the cover, like its predecessor, incorporates a map of the area of London involved in the story. We are to be taken back to 1812, and by seeing the streets open up before you, you can almost step into the picture and be taken down into the narrative. It may be irrational, but to me a book has to be attractive to the eye as well as the mind. Or perhaps that’s just the historian in me.
I won’t go into detail about the story… that would be silly, but I have to say that I love the old Magistrate and his side-kick. It’s like Morse and Lewis have been transported back to Regency London, but that’s just a comparison, these are characters that stand up in their own right, they are men you want to read more of, and I truly hope that I do get to follow them along on more of their adventures. And Horton’s wife should have her own side-kick status, there is definitely more to her than meets the eye.
Unlike some authors who seem to have either carried out a cursory wiki-trawl of their chosen era, or worst, done no research at all, Shepherd has obviously immersed himself in the Regency period. He knows his era without shouting about it, and has researched well. While you are not being preached at, you know that he knows what he is writing about. If this were a film there would be no wrist-watches on view during the tavern scene.
What isn’t immediately obvious, and what had me fascinated with his last novel, is that the people and places are real. While the story is fictitious, the characters existed. And I’m sure at least one of them would have been tickled pink by his new adventures.
So, as a review what can I say about The Poisoned Island? I won’t tell you the story, but would urge you to read it for yourself. Lloyd Shepherd is a wordsmith who knows when to draw the reader in; he paints the scene beautifully and allows the characters to speak to you. And when the story is ended, go and learn more about his characters…to get you ready for book three.
So, pop along to you local bookshop, or retailer of choice and bag yourself a copy of this excellent book. I cant wait to see what Harriott and Horton get up to next!