The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt-Jan. 26th, 2016)-If you haven’t discovered Jonathan Moore’s work, now is the time. The Poison Artist is a tense, creepy, and delectably dark read that hovers over the line between horror and suspense, never quite letting its readers come up for breath. Dr. Caleb Maddox is a brilliant toxicologist who has been studying the effects of pain. He’s excelling at work, but not so much at home. His girlfriend Bridget has moved out, and he’s desperate to get her back, and is a frequent visitor to local bars. One night, while he’s having a drink, he meets an achingly beautiful woman named Emmeline, and becomes obsessed with finding her. When he finally does, it marks the beginning of a bizarre affair, one that may prove to be fatal. Meanwhile, men are dying at the hands of a particularly brutal killer, and they seem to have nothing in common, yet Caleb has caught the eye of a particularly dogged detective. When evidence of poison is found, Caleb’s childhood friend Henry Newcomb, the medical examiner handling the victims, enlists Caleb’s help. More and more men keep dying while Caleb pursues the elusive, passionate Emmeline.
I hesitate to elaborate too much on the plot, because this is one of those books where the devil is in the details, and the author creates a complex puzzle that had me constantly wondering how the pieces fit together. They do. Trust me. Everything is connected, and as the author navigates the maze of Caleb’s past and his increasingly strange encounters with the odd, melancholy Emmeline, there’s always a sense that something bad might be lurking right around the corner.
Well, something is, but it might not be what you think. In Moore’s capable hands, San Francisco becomes a dark and dangerous place, with shadowy alleys and a plethora of secret bars that cater to a decidedly odd clientele. The sense of urgency on every page make this one hard to look away from, and it was a two sitting read for me. You know that point in a book where you just CAN’T put it down? You just have to see what happens? You’ll know when that is in this book, and it’s a white knuckler from then on. This is one of the most unusual thrillers that I’ve read in a long time, and I can’t wait to see what Jonathan Moore has up his sleeve next! Get your hands on this one and prepare for a heckuva ride.