The Poisoner’s Ring by Kelley Armstrong
Time Travel / Mystery / Historical Fiction
In this stellar follow-up to Armstrong’s A Rip Through Time, we’re once again back in Victorian Scotland with Mallory Atkinson — a modern-day homicide detective who has found herself trapped in the body of a 19th-century housemaid. With a core few knowing the truth of who she is, Mallory is able to work as the assistant to Dr. Duncan Grey — an undertaker who moonlights as a medical examiner. But when word of a poison ring spreads, Duncan Gray’s sister is one of the accused, and they must work fast to find the truth.
Time travel isn’t for everyone, and while there are some elements that didn’t quite work for me, I don’t mind suspending disbelief — especially when a book is such fun. The Victorian-era setting felt well-researched and there were some great historical details that really added to the story. As a layperson, I didn’t personally notice any historical inaccuracies in the first book, but I appreciated the author’s note in The Poisoner’s Ring acknowledging that she’d corrected these.
Mallory is a spunky and determined character, who is navigating not only a new time period but also, a new body. She’s great at reading people and isn’t afraid to dive into danger in pursuit of the truth. In this second novel, we see the hint of a romance building between Mallory and Duncan, but we also feel the conflict Mallory has with wanting to return to her own time period. These plot points are a very slow burn, and I love the anticipation that is building as we wait to see how it will all be resolved.
The time travel element gives us a glimpse into the social issues that remain relevant to both time periods, and this collision of worlds is something I always love to see in stories like this. My one critique is that there isn’t always enough of a clash between Mallory’s modern-day views and the Victorian ones around her. Yes, she’s ended up in a very forward and socially conscious household but I would still expect some more pushback within her broader circle.
As a mystery, the plot is strong and exciting, full of twists, multiple murders, and a final reveal that I didn’t see coming. Sometimes, historical mysteries sacrifice a well-thought-out mystery for a brilliant setting but that wasn’t the case here — we got both! While I was reading, I could help but think how much fun this would be as a TV series!
All in all, The Poisoner’s Ring did not disappoint! While I didn’t love this cover as much as the first, this story was an excellent follow-up to A Rip Through Time and I am thoroughly looking to the next installment in this series!
Those who have read and enjoyed the first book in the series, A Rip Through Time!
This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Advance copy of the book provided courtesy of the publisher, St. Martin’s Press. All opinions expressed are my own.
About the book:
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.