The Poisonous Seed by Linda Stratmann is set in Victorian London (with occasional forays elsewhere) and follows the adventures of Frances Doughty, who works in her father’s chemist’s shop.
The book has an excellent sense of place and character–both seemed utterly real, in part because the author herself worked as a chemist. Another factor is her research–she has a list of texts at the end in case you want to know more, always a nice touch. I think I’ve mentioned that characterization is important to me, and this book does a really nice job. Even the supporting and minor characters are fully fleshed out (but without lumps of exposition, something I don’t have great patience for).
However, the main mystery is quite confusing, just by its nature. It’s not just one person who isn’t who he says he is–there are three or four. And most of that part takes place in various times over the past thirty or so years. The author tried to make it as clear as she could, but I was so confused. It didn’t help that because this was set in Victorian England, everyone had traditional English names (a Papadokas or a Yang would have been easier to keep track of, but are not historically accurate!).
All in all, though, I liked the author’s style and the end made me look up her next book and borrow it from the library–which I’ve done. I’ll see what I think of the next one–that may be a better example of the author’s work.