Cover Image: A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons

A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons

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Member Reviews

Set at University College of London in 1923 the story is told from the points of view of two young academics Saffron Everleigh, a young botanist, the only female on staff and World War one veteran, biologist Alexander Ashton. 

After a poisoning at a facility party that neither of them particularly wanted to attend Saffron and Alexander are convinced that the police have the wrong suspect in custody and try to solve the crime usually scientific methods and a fair bit of snooping. 

There are themes of sexisim, work place harassment, grief and PTSD.

I love a good historical mystery and this one ticked all the boxes...
Characters with real struggles, banter, a bit of romance....plus it has a gorgeous cover.

This review has also be posted to Goodreads and my Instagram Jenthebookishbakernz 

The book will be published in June 2022 and I am already hoping that there will be a sequel. I want more of these characters.
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"Saffron Everleigh is in a race against time to free her wrongly accused professor before he goes behind bars forever."
The book starts off nice and easy with a poisoning at a party, which leads Saffron to help find the poisoner. 
The pace to me was very slow, and I only just read in the summary on GR that it was meant to be set in 1923. I spent the whole book looking for clues it was set then (it mentions Alexander fighting in a war, so I figured it was sometime after the first world war). She is essentially a suffragist, studying at a uni in a time when that was uncommon, but can mostly do so because she came from a very rich family (although they cut her off). It felt like a "white people problems" book, but set in England in the 20s. I love historical fiction and have read several books set in that era. This one just didn't really add anything for me. I did skim parts of it, so perhaps I missed some stuff.
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A great read for fans of The Nevers, Murdoch Mysteries, and other Victorian mysteries, Too much focus on what people are wearing.
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This book is an absolute blast. Khavari's A Botanist's Guide immediately immerses the reader in 1923 London. Saffron Everleigh, a university botanist, sets out to clear her mentor's name in a case of poisoning. Everleigh is joined by a fellow researcher, Alexander Asher, and the whole thing becomes a wonderful historical romp complete with atmosphere and mystery. For readers who enjoy Anna Leigh Huber, et al, this will indeed quickly become a favorite series.
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I was able to read this novel as an ARC through Net Galley. Thank you to the publisher.
I liked this novel so much that if there was a follow up and I had it on my Kindle, I would’ve instantly opened it once I had finished this story. If I was to describe it to anyone else it would be as “utterly charming”. Saffron Everleigh- our somewhat typical plucky heroine and the handsome Alexander Ashton make for a fun and unlikely crime fighting duo on the grounds of a University shortly after World War One has ended. Saffron’s father taught at the University until he was killed in WW1. Now she is a research assistant there, hoping to follow in her father’s footsteps, in an era that didn’t offer much by way of opportunity for women. When at a University party, she is caught up in a real life murder mystery. I really like the historical setting and the old fashioned feel of the story. The use of poison and exotic plants and how the author wove knowledge of the botany of the time into the story made it feel like a unique read. I like the possible blossoming romance between Saffron and Alexander. I hope the author writes another book and makes it a series!
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I was immediately transported back to 1923 London in this atmospheric and fast-paced whodunnit. 

Saffron Everleigh, an assistant botanist at UCL, is trying to get to the bottom of a poisoning at a pre-expedition 

party at the university. Mrs Henry is now in a coma, but was she the intended victim?

Saffron has to find time for investigating, academics, sorting through a myriad of clues, and getting to know 

handsome Alex Ashton a little better.

We are drawn into the closed competitive world of academia and the social mores of the time..

Engrossing and romantic too,  I really enjoyed this story. 



.
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A pleasant read for fans of historical mystery, A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons is a charming whodunnit focused on character and dialogue.  

Kate Khavari has created a smart and tenacious female lead in Saffron Everleigh. Saffron navigates the world of 1920's academia as an aspiring researcher. She becomes embroiled in a mysterious poisoning as she looks to clear the name of her mentor and friend. Scientist turned sleuth, Saffron uses her intelligence and charm in her search for answers.

I do wish the author had delved more into the influence of WWI on the central characters - I saw a missed opportunity to bring in the "poison" of war more deeply and its effects on the mind. I was also perplexed by choices made by Saffron in the later half of the book, that seemed off-character. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't guess the ending, but did find some of the final events a touch unbelievable. Still, I enjoyed the book overall and it was the perfect light read for a rainy weekend.

** Thank you to Crooked Lane Books for the ARC.
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As soon as I saw the cover for this on NetGalley I knew I had to read it and it did not disappoint. The characters were all incredibly engaging and realistic even though the entire book had an almost whimsical feel to it. I especially enjoyed reading about botany/biology as that's what I'm currently studying!

I thought that the plot had the perfect amount of mystery, suspense and romance to keep my interest the entire way through. The ending was also great and I didn't see it coming!

4/5 stars. Thank you to NetGalley and the author for this copy to review.
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I absolutely adored this book and its cast of characters. It's a lovely blend of history, mystery, and botany. I enjoyed Saffron as a main character and her intriguing method to solve a murder using the power of poisons and knowledge of plants. There was much to be desired for a woman in a research role at a university - trying to prove her worth also. I enjoy these stories where its a little known profession and this provides a new perspective.
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Saffron Everleigh is the only female botanist researcher at the University College of London in 1923. In fact she is the only woman in the entire department and rumors surround her. While attending a party with other faculty members prior to a large research expedition (that she is not going on), she witnesses the poisoning of the wife of the expedition's lead professor, Dr. Henry. Saffron's mentor, Dr. Maxwell is the main suspect because he is well known for his interest in poisonous plants. When Dr. Maxwell is arrested Saffron begins her own investigation to find out who the real culprit is and why Dr. Maxwell is being framed. Saffron begins to work closely with Alexander Asher, another researcher in the department and helps him to prepare for the expedition. Alexander takes notice of Saffron and he helps her try to discover the truth about the poisoning, but dangers lurk everywhere and someone will go to great lengths to keep Saffron quiet. This was a thrilling story with a strong female protagonist and an interesting cast of characters. The characters are well developed and the author does a nice job of fleshing them out, especially those who seem stereotypical upon first meeting. While there is an attraction between Saffron and Alexander it does not overrun the story and plays out nicely. I was guessing at the identity of the culprit and their motivation right to the end. Thank you to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books, and Kate Khavari for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Thanks to Net Galley and Crooked Lane Books for this advance copy.  Set in 1920’s London after WW1, Saffron Everleigh is the only female botanist at the University College of London.   Her professor is accused of poisoning the wife of a colleague at a high society dinner weeks before a team of botanists from the University are scheduled to travel to the Amazon on an expedition.  Saffron, along with her sidekick, Alexander Ashton, set out to solve the crime themselves.   Written in the classic whodunnit style the storyline moves along at a good pace with an interesting cast of characters.   Saffron is a likeable and strong protagonist holding her own in a man's world.  Overall a good mystery with the potential to be a series (similar to Deanna Raybourn) and I hope to see a follow on book from the author - 3 1/2 stars.
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I'm afraid I didn't care much for this book and I'm so disappointed to say it, as I love historical fiction and everything about the 1920s and the inter-war years, and everything about plants (poisonous or otherwise). I should have been the perfect reader! But while the main character is charming in a way (it seemed to me that the author was going for a  Phryne Fisher vibe) she lacked emotional depth, which was true for the book as a whole. Saffron (the MC) spends 200+ pages trying to clear her mentor at University College London of murder allegations, but the author doesn't use a single page to build any sort of relationship between the two of them first, so I found myself not caring very much about any of her frantic problem solving. The book was very short and I kept thinking, slow DOWN. Give us some rich, historical details (or any details at all, really). Give us some interiority on these characters. Give us a reason to feel something for them or the situation - but alas, that was in extremely short supply. 

I appreciate the opportunity to read and review this story, and would welcome the chance to give the author another go on her next work.
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Disappointing.
The title intrigues but... there is almost no botany in this story and very little about flower and plant poisons - apart from belladonna and a few others, yet as we know, it is all too easy to poison people with plants. a leaf or petal in a tea and...
A shame as the title implies much
Oh and just to reassure readers, the xolotyl plant doesn't exist - a xolotyl is a Mexican hairless dog!
Slow and rather Miss Marpley in the way the story is 'attacked'.
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This was a quick and captivating read! I found the characters and the setting to be the most gripping elements of the story!

Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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The title, A Botanists Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari, pretty much described occurrences in the book. A party at University College in London during the early 1900s is the scene of a poisoning. During a time when it was unusual for women to attend college, Saffron is a gifted botanist who attends the party, and she almost immediately suspects a plant in the college greenhouse brought back from a tropical area. She enlists the help of a Biology researcher, handsome Ashton, to try to discover who would have done this to a professor's wife. While they discover many interesting things people are doing that they should not be doing, they cannot figure out who would want to poison her or why.

But Saffron cannot let it go.

The book is suspenseful and intriguing. I also enjoy the historical aspects of the story. Saffron and Ashton use their knowledge of other characters, as well as plants, to solve the mystery.
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I was given a free e-copy of this novel by NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saffron Everleigh is in a race against time to free her wrongly accused professor before he goes behind bars forever. Perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn and Anna Lee Huber, Kate Khavari’s debut historical mystery is a fast-paced, fearless adventure. London, 1923. Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh attends a dinner party for the University College of London. While she expects to engage in conversations about the university's large expedition to the Amazon, she doesn’t expect Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives to drop to the floor, poisoned by an unknown toxin. Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor, is the main suspect, having had an explosive argument with Dr. Henry a few days prior. As evidence mounts against Dr. Maxwell and the expedition's departure draws nearer, Saffron realizes if she wants her mentor's name cleared, she’ll have to do it herself. Joined by enigmatic Alexander Ashton, a fellow researcher, Saffron uses her knowledge of botany as she explores steamy greenhouses, dark gardens, and deadly poisons. Will she be able to uncover the truth or will her investigation land her on the murderer’s list? (Goodreads synopsis)

I liked Saffron, because she felt so genuine to the era Khavari was writing her in. She is a fighter looking for independence and purpose in a time that was trying to prevent change. She endured the sexist remarks from her male colleagues, but continued to work for her ambitions. She was also inquisitive and impulsive which are traits that I feel a true scientist must have. In this case, Saffron was a scientist as well as an amateur detective to save and protect her beloved professor. I also really liked Alexander Ashton, a man who returned from the war with PTSD but refused to let it control his life. He knew that the world could not stay the same, and he was more tolerant to the changes at the college. I enjoyed his interactions with Saffron, and how he listened to her while resisting the urge to be over-protective. I found the careers of our characters to be significantly unique. Most cozy mysteries are bookstores, librarians, cat lovers, dog lovers, and living near water. I liked seeing science not only as a career but as a murder weapon. I thought the college was unique but also accurate to how competitive the atmosphere really is. The competition is one of those few things that has never changed throughout time. Those factors is what makes the story relate-able. 

I found the pacing of the story was medium. It wasn’t fast, but it wasn’t slow either. This was a book that I savored (for lack of a better word). The interaction with the police started out making me wary, but it became clear that there was not going to be the typical friction/antagonism between the characters. The majority of the novel being from Saffron’s POV made sense, but it also was unique to have Alexander’s and later Inspector Green’s and Simpson’s. The mystery was also very good. A couple of the characters and their outcomes/solutions did catch me by surprise. I honestly would have reversed them. One, however, did not and I was pleased to read the outcome. I honestly really liked the ending, though I am curious to see what happens in the next book, and how Saffron and Ashton are able to interact. I’m secretly hoping there will be a more personal approach for Saffron and her family. I also would like to learn more about Ashton and his life/family. There is so much potential with this series!

Overall I rate this novel 5 out of 5 stars.
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Really enjoyed the uniqueness of this historical mystery. I'd never read a book with botany involved so it was cool how it connected with the poisoning. I also liked having the change from Saffron's perspective to Alexander's at times. I've never read a mystery book with two perspectives. Love the cover too!
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Rating: 4 / 5

Received ARC from Netgalley for honest review

This book does not set out to be anything "great", but in terms of what it DOES set out to do, and as its title and B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L cover implies, it does have a lot to so with poisons--though there's only one party at the beginning, mind you.

The story centres around Saffron Everleigh, a botany research assistant whose name is only distracting for the first two chapters or so until you forget that it's also a spice.



Whilst attending a party along with her mentor, Dr. Maxwell (who for some reason I kept imagining as looking like Einstein), Saffron is also introduced to the charming Alexander Ashton, a WWI veteran who's now dedicated his life to studying bacteria. Um....hot?

Anyway, a murder (or near-murder, anyway) occurs at this party, and since it's Dr. Maxwell who seems to be under suspicion, Saffron of course feels all of the 1920s frustration of a woman to prove herself, and so she decides to get involved. So goes our premise and so begins our tale.



In terms of the story, to keep things spoiler free, I want to first justify the four stars that I have given it before explaining the one star I took off. A list being the quickest way to go about things, let me just elaborate quickly:

+ Saffron and Alexander themselves, despite being fairly standard characters, are well-used together and work really well in holding the reader's interest, so that's a plus
+ there's a lot of attention and therefore accuracy given to botany, as more than just the background to the crime, which shows legitimate interest on the author's part in researching this element to their story
+ what ends up being the answer to who was behind what all along is a teeny-tiny bit unexpected. Now like an "oh wow, didn't see that coming", but it is interesting to see how the author pushes certain boundaries and exposes some characters for what they truly are
+ the acknowledgement of the impact of trauma of WWI veterans, as well as the hardship of a woman in high academia at that time

Now, ahem, it's time to justify the one star off, which, of course, I have more to say about than the positives because...I'm a critic.



Now, what really takes away from this book in terms of being great are, namely, two things:

1) the ending, which for me was personally underwhelming, and

2) the fact that the author didn't delve deeply enough into several things that she could have.

So, with regards to the first one, spoiler-free, I'm referring to what happens in the very last chapter after the crime has been solved and so on and so forth. So, naturally enough, there's a romance building between Saffron and Alexander, and though maybe one wouldn't go so far as to say that they're in love, it's still...kind of unsatisfying that the author doesn't really delve deeply into that and confirm it for us. Like...if this were a 1920s movie, for example, imagine seeing a lot of mystery and drama and action play out, but then at the end you barely get a quick, undescriptive, and rather impersonal kiss as the reward between the hero and heroine. It's just...unsatisfying, so points off for that.

ALSO, and this is the bigger problem, there are a lot of things that the author missed out on that could have really upped the ante of the novel. For example, I really enjoyed the WWI references and especially with regards to Alexander's character, but I felt that the author never went deeply enough into those. She just touched on them a little, but it's more like we hear about a trauma (aka character inner conflict and therefore originality) that's already over with, with almost no perceivable impacts whatsoever on the plot, rather than feel that the trauma is present. Maybe this is because Alexander's perspective is heavily cut from the story except for a few short segments, but I would really have appreciated for the author to include those as well, you know?

Another lapse, I think, is just in the mystery-solving process, which isn't described enough. Sure, we have Saffron and Alexander investigating plants, but there's no logic to it in terms of where Saffron's coming up with everything. Instead, she just goes off based on hunches, when really she could and should (a la Jessica Fletcher style) be questioning people more and collecting more evidence. Her hunches aren't even informed or inferred, they're just preferred, since she seems to have constructed things in her head without solid evidence. Granted, the author uses Alexander to temper her down a bit, but it's not like she changes her approach at all throughout the story, and therefore in many ways it just feels like our heroes lucked out (if you can call it that) when all is revealed near the end. It was less Jessica Fletcher/Sherlock Holmes and more Daphne (from Scooby Doo) trippng over a wire and exposing the villain. Make sense?



Anyway, all that now officially out of my system, overall this was a good book to read, cozy enough that it kept my interest for the two or so days that it took me to read it. I would recommend checking it out for a lovely little experience though, again, for seasoned readers of mystery, this may underwhelm some of you.
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Saffron Everleigh is an anomaly. She is the only female research assistant in biology at the University College London. An expedition is being planned to Brazil. At a dinner party celebrating the expedition, the expedition leader’s wife suddenly becomes ill. As it becomes apparent that she was poisoned, the police become involved.  Saffron is fascinated by the case and begins investigating.  She convinces a fellow biologist, Mr. Archer to help her. Can she solve the case before the police? Will her unofficial investigation put her in danger?

Saffron is a clever character. Her inquisitive nature is charming and her rapport with Mr. Archer strikes just the right note. There are a couple of times that the story seems bogged down with details and slows. The story has a logical ending and alludes to a continuation of Saffron’s story. 

This book is an entertaining lesson in the power of botany. The continuation of the main character’s story will definitely be worth following.
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Saffron is a flower out of place, sort to speak. She is the lone female researcher (assistant) at a London college in the 1920s. She landed the position by help of Dr. Maxwell; but when he is arrested for an attempted murder, she will try and clear his name and figure out who is behind the crime. 

I enjoyed this book! It was fast paced with a strong female protagonist. The botany was hit and miss for me. At times, I thought the descriptions were lovely and then other times I thought “what is this contributing to the plot?”

I can definitely recommend this to those who have an interest in botany or want a “light” murder mystery novel. 

Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy to enjoy!
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