June 4, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

The Poisoner’s Ring By Kelley Armstrong Is A Thrilling Mix Of Historical Fiction And Suspense- Review

The Poisoner’s Ring By Kelley Armstrong- Summary

Goodreads Summary of The Poisoner’s Ring (Rip Through Time #1) By Kelley Armstrong-  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. The household’s every move is being watched, and who knows where the investigation will lead.



Due to The Poisoner’s Ring being the second in the Rip Through Time series, I imagine there will be spoilers. I did not review Rip Through Time (Goodreads Link)

The Poisoner’s Ring By Kelley Armstrong- Review

Some of these thoughts are discussed in yesterday’s interview with Kelley Armstrong (linked)

If you have read the first book in Kelley Armstrong’s A Rip Through Time, book#1, then your expectations were high. But, if you haven’t read it, stop RIGHT now and read it before The Poisoner’s Ring comes out on May 23rd. So, you will be prepared for the return of Mallory, Gray, and Annis, along with a whole new cast of delightful characters.

Now armed with the truth, Grey and his family can utilize Mallory’s true talent as a modern-day Canadian detective rather than just as a maid. But, of course, appearances must be kept up. This is also intricate to the plot because it allows it to move much quicker. DO NOT misunderstand me. I LOVED Rip Through Time. It was one of my favorite finds of the year. However, like the first book in most series, there is time to be taken to set up the story, characters, and conflict—moreover, Armstrong double downs on the humor.

‘For now, we need to check out Miss Young’s alibi for her stepmother. ‘In prison?’ McCreadie says. ‘I’d rather do it in a this coffee shop, but I doubt that’s an option’.

The Poisoner’s Ring can move quickly without losing any of its appeal. It also allows for the mystery to start right away and throw us headfirst into the action, with plenty to be had. Most chapters ended in a mini-reveal or cliffhanger, making it especially hard to put down. The mystery is intricate and unexpected. When men start unexpectedly dying, apparently all by poison. To make matters more complicated, it seems that all the possible suspects are those Mallory has learned.

The Poisoner’s Ring By Kelley Armstrong- Connecting times

Armstrong’s deft ability to weave social issues that connect from the late 1800s Edinburough to modern-day Canada continues to shine. Those around her often assume certain things have changed in Mallory’s time when sadly, they have not. The biting racism towards Gray, as a black undertaker, to “Jack,” who identifies as her/she. There are also medical/detective obstacles that are placed through the time periods, leaving Mallory confounded. This never gets in the way of the plot but enhances it, bringing it to another level of excellent writing.

‘Mr Jack?’ I say. He grins. ‘That’s a rather awkward way to ask the question you want answered. I expected better from you.’ ‘I am not asking any question that is your own private business. I am asking to be sure I use the mode of address you prefer. Mister? Miss? He? She? Something else?’ The grin grows, and he tips his hat. ‘Now that is a very polite question to ask. Thank you. I prefer just plain Jack. As for the rest, I use she, but do not mind he, as that is what is usually presumed when I’m out dressed like this.’

While discussing Mallory feeling ‘discombobulated’ at always having to intimidate a maid that looks nothing like herself, Gray asks what she looks like. After describing her hair and eyes, and height, he asks if she is white. This brings up an authentic and awkward dialogue about how still, in modern times, people assume white unless otherwise stated.

‘You’re a doctor, which is fairly unusual for you here. We wouldn’t think twice about it in Canada. However, you’d still have new patients asking where you came from and expecting you to speak with an accent.’ ‘Nothing new, then.”

Kelley Armstrong

Thank you to Macmillan for an advanced copy of The Poisoner’s Ring

The Poisoner’s Ring By Kelley Armstrong- Characters

As everyone knows, I’m not a fan of romance. However, Mallory and Gray’s continued relationship, demonstrated on a personal and professional level, is stupendous. Yet, it still courts the line between friendship and romance. Mallory’s other relationships, including with Annis, also develop as she becomes more protective of her and less inclined to keep Grey’s secrets from Annis.

This is done thoughtfully and again through the humor Mallory often demonstrates to survive life in the late 1800s. She loses none of her sass and sarcasm, which I gather also existed in Canada. However, Grey takes no gruff and dishes as well as he takes.

‘You are manhandling me.’ ‘Of couse. Because I am a man. I cannot handle you in any other way.” I sputter a genuine laugh and turn it into a girlsh squeal as I struggle.

Their continued chemistry is beautiful and heartbreaking, as we know that at some point, Mallory will have to decide whether to stay or go (when she finds a way back to Canada). It is a cloud that hangs heavy throughout the series.

The Poisoner’s Ring By Kelley Armstrong- Setting

What makes the unfolding of late 1800s Edinborough special is that it is seen through different visions. For those that are of that time period, things are so commonplace and ordinary. But seen through Mallory’s eyes, Armstrong truly creates a magnificent and layered setting of Edinborough. Everything Mallory has to learn, from the differences in language/slang, to how a woman is expected to speak, brings another degree to our immersion into that time period.

Final Thoughts

The mystery is multi-faceted and fast-paced, with much action to boot. Kelley Armstrong has an innate ability to write in a way that puts you into action, almost like watching a movie. And it is phenomenal. Get started on Rip Through Time before May 23rd, and be ready to be astounded. For those that have already read it, get ready to be astounded!!!

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