BookTrail Boarding Pass: A Poisoner’s Tale

Published: March 30, 2024

Article by The Book Trail

Destination : Palermo, Rome and Vatican City
Author guide: Catheryn Kemp
Genre: historical inspired by real life
Food and drink to accompany: consume nothing! it’s too dangerous

A gripping historical fiction novel inspired by the real life woman – Giulia Tofana – and many others, who worked as a secret network of people in Rome, dispensing poisons to women who had been abused or assaulted and who wanted rid of their oppressors. Of course, not everyone who wanted a poison had such a compelling ‘ reason’. Some just wanted a lover gone or to get out of a tricky situation. But the fact was this secret network really did exist and Catheryn Kemp has brought this back to life in the most amazing of ways…

Be warned – this book will consume you. It kept me going for days. I started reading and was so gripped that I knew I was on to something special so I slowed my reading right down. I read it over 3 days and what a three days it was. Leaving the characters at key, dangerous moments meant that I was thinking of them at work, leaving the house in chaos to read more and generally giving my life over to this book. When a book literally consumes you – this is a marvellous thing.

The story of a woman and a network of women dispensing poisons to kill husbands is a gory prospect. One that really happened however. That drew me in initially as how could this happen? Why did it happen? The story behind the story is compelling but the novel takes it to another level. The writing is descriptive and alluring, the scene setting brilliantly done and the fear, suspicion and sense of foreboding off the page!

Giulia Tofana was an Italian professional poisoner. She sold a poison called Aqua Tofana to women who wanted to murder their husbands. She got away with it at first as this was a time of plague in Rome, but then the authorities start to get suspicious…

The intrigue and the sense of danger was the most fierce I had ever read. I got to understand these women, the ways of society at that time not to mention the religious persecution. So, you get a real sense of why these women wanted to kill. The author weaves in characters with back story and I felt strongly about each one as they came to seek poison as a way out.

The sense of tension and creeping sense of dread is brilliantly done. People in cloaks follow these women, shadows seem to be everywhere. Vatican City alludes danger too. This is a dangerous time in Rome. I was sweating alongside the characters!

The ending was perfection – neatly ending the story that had me in twists and turns throughout. I was only glad to finish so I could return to a natural rhythm of breathing. And this is a DEBUT??

Brilliantly told, expertly woven. Out in July!

» Map of locations in A Poisoner’s Tale