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The Poison Artist

Jonathan Moore
In Print
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)

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This entry created 7 September 2022. Last revised on 7 September 2022.

261 hits since 6 Sep 2022
©1994-2023 Bill Armintrout
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The Poison Artist
Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star no star no star (8.00)

275 pages. Acknowledgments.

Being a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, and having briefly lived and worked in the city, I could not resist this novel distinctly embedded in the City By The Bay.

Caleb Maddox has just broken up with his live-in girlfriend, Bridget. Spending the night in a downtown hotel, having gone out for a few drinks, he encounters an alluring woman who seems to have stepped out of the distant past. He becomes obsessed with finding her again.

Caleb is also a research toxicologist. His childhood friend, Henry, is the San Francisco medical examiner. Knowing that Caleb has access to the best lab equipment, Henry asks him to unofficially help with a series of bodies recently found in the bay – is this the work of a serial killer?

As the story progresses, Caleb's life begins to fall apart due to his break-up, his obsessions, his drinking, pressures at work… but he uncovers essential clues about the serial killer… and about the mystery woman.

This is a psychological thriller that's also a detective tale. The author deliberately conceals from the reader vital clues: Why did Bridget break up with Caleb? What is the secret of Caleb's childhood?

The author has also entwined the story into the history and geography of San Francisco, so that if you know the city, you can almost follow the action step by step.

Note that the mystery woman subplot is not suitable for younger readers. Likewise the autopsy scenes and some gruesome stuff.

Can you game it? No, but you might get some ideas for characters to add to your next Pulp adventure.

Strongly recommended if an erotic psychological thriller is your type of thing. Stylishly done.

Reviewed by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian.