Book Review: A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons

Saffron Everleigh would choose plants over her academic colleagues any day. But alas, rumors are swirling about her status as a research assistant in 1923 London, and she must be more outgoing to show her colleagues she is professional and a student pursuing graduate studies, not her MRS. Her first step to overcome the rumors is to attend the going away party for an expedition that includes members of her botany department. Unfortunately, the party she attends to quell the rumors ends up sparking even more gossip: the wife of a prominent professor is poisoned just a few feet away from Saffron.

Saffron, though intrigued by the mystery, has no intention of getting involved. Until her beloved mentor and professor is arrested for the crime. Unwilling to sit by and do nothing, Saffron launches her own investigation. But if Saffron’s mentor is innocent, the poisoner is still at large and Saffron may be next.

Kate Khavari’s historical mystery debut weaves a tangled web of suspects, motives, and opportunities. The overall tone and voice of the novel capture the historical setting well, matching the formal undertones of the era without bogging down the reader.

The lush gardens and humid greenhouses are key settings that are described in the same lush language and intricate voice as the rest of the narrative.

The characters are well developed, as the reader gets to unspool the character’s inner mysteries while also piecing together the puzzle pieces of the poisoning mystery. What happened to Saffron to be the subject of these rumors? Who is this new, handsome biologist? Could Dr. Maxwell, a renowned poison expert, have poisoned his colleague’s wife? The interpersonal relationships play a critical role in solving the overarching mystery, and will have armchair detectives entranced.

The overarching mystery is engaging and well paced, letting the reader slowly unspool the many threads to try and solve it alongside Saffron. But when the final puzzle pieces slide into place, this book is impossible to put down! Saffron’s traipsing through greenhouses and gardens, identifying plants and pondering potential suspects, keeps the reader turning the page to discover what will happen next.

The representation of positive female friendship between Saffron and her roommate is wonderful. Watching these young women make their way in male dominated industries, in the 1920s no less, was wonderful. The potential romantic relationship was a fun bonus, adding to the mystery and the character arcs.

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons is a fun cozy mystery perfect for fans of Enola Holmes.

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons will be available June 7, 2022 from Crooked Lane Books.

Thank you to author Kate Khavari, NetGalley, and Crooked Lane Books for an advanced e-galley such that I could share my honest review.

You can pre-order A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons from from Amazon here. Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Amazon. I will earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase.

There is a trigger warning below the title image.

Content Warning/Trigger Warning: Brief depictions of sexual harassment and attempted sexual assault.


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