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The Poisoner's Ring: A Rip Through Time Novel


The Poisoner's Ring: A Rip Through Time Novel

In THE POISONER’S RING, the second entry in Kelley Armstrong's Rip Through Time series, Mallory Atkinson is still adjusting to life in 1869. This modern-day homicide detective from Vancouver somehow went back in time while visiting her ailing grandmother in Edinburgh. Luckily, she ended up in the body of a maid named Catriona Mitchell, who works for an unusual family. Dr. Duncan Gray runs a funeral business and is interested in crimes. His sister, Isla, is a chemist with whom Mallory has become friends.

Gray and Isla know that Catriona, who was untrustworthy and devious, has been replaced by Mallory, who now assists Duncan in his investigations as a medical examiner. As we saw in the first book, A RIP THROUGH TIME, Gray and Mallory work well together. She is able to use her detective skills to help with evidence and interview people.

"Between the setting, the strong and likable characters, and Armstrong's ability to create a solid mystery, this series is one that will continue to delight."

What I love about time travel novels is seeing the many disparities between the current time and the past, and Armstrong delights us with what they did not know back then. We learn that thallium, a heavy metal, was discovered by 1869, but not much was known about it. While Isla can test for the presence of arsenic and heavy metal, there are no tests to determine exactly what poison might have killed someone.

And in this novel, there are four people who are poisoned. Armstrong provides us with several likely suspects, and as the three search for more information, we see many parts of Edinburgh. Be warned that reading these books might make you want to visit Scotland and see the sights with your own eyes. Because poison was considered a woman's weapon, Isla is one of the suspects due to her interest in chemistry. Ironically back then, they found it hard to believe that a woman was really a chemist but were convinced that she would be capable of delivering fatal doses of poison.

That’s another part of THE POISONER’S RING that is fascinating --- the treatment of women. In Scotland, a woman could own property in her name. But in England, once a woman married, she and all her property belonged to her husband. Even the most intelligent woman, with perspicacious ideas, is belittled. Mallory has learned to use this unfortunate reality to her advantage at times, but it rankles. Without making it awkward, Armstrong also includes a diverse set of characters. Homosexual behavior was a huge secret to be hidden at all costs. It's nothing we didn't already know, but here we see it more clearly through Armstrong’s fine writing, as well as through the actions --- both overt and covert --- of her characters.

The final uncovering of the individual at the heart of the poisoning is a twist that neither we nor the characters in the book might have expected. And this is where Armstrong shows her knowledge of human psychology. The "good guys" have such a difficult time believing that the killer is capable of violence that they underestimate that person.

Between the setting, the strong and likable characters, and Armstrong's ability to create a solid mystery, this series is one that will continue to delight. Starting with A RIP THROUGH TIME is probably recommended. While each could stand alone, some characters have a backstory that is not completely shared in THE POISONER’S RING, which might confuse a newcomer.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on June 3, 2023

The Poisoner's Ring: A Rip Through Time Novel
by Kelley Armstrong