16 October 2020

Review || Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang



New York City, 1899. Tillie Pembroke’s sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker’s new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie’s imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can’t be—can it?

A ravenous reader and researcher, Tillie has something of an addiction to truth, and she won’t rest until she unravels the mystery of her sister’s death. Unfortunately, Tillie’s addicted to more than just truth; to ease the pain from a recent injury, she’s taking more and more laudanum…and some in her immediate circle are happy to keep her well supplied.

Tillie can’t bring herself to believe vampires exist. But with the hysteria surrounding her sister’s death, the continued vampiric slayings, and the opium swirling through her body, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for a girl who relies on facts and figures to know what’s real—or whether she can trust those closest to her.


   

Historical fiction isn't one that I gravitate to often and though I have been known to enjoy one of two along the way, I couldn't resist one that might have vampires. Drawing lots of similarities to the newly released Dracula novel by Bram Stoker made it that much more engaging. This one has been sitting in my TBR for a while and I regret not picking it up sooner. 

When Lucy Pembroke is found dead with puncture marks on her neck and her sister, Tillie is not going to sit back and let the police solve her death. Tillie is one heck of amateur detective in a time where it is not couth to be anything other than a woman in preparation to be a perfect wife. She's spunky and hard not to root for as she scoffs societal expectations, even if it is while no one is watching. While there were quite a few moments where you are practically yelling at Tillie, she's a smart cookie with dreams and aspirations that you want to see her achieve. 

One of those (frequent) moments that you want to reach into the page and shake some sense into Tillie was with the titular opium. The addiction that Tillie experiences is difficult to watch. Laudanum in case you didn't know was a tincture of opium. Made from a species of poppy, it has been recorded throughout history back to ancient Sumatra and Egypt as a pain reliever and became popular in the 1800s as a cure for everything from headaches to cough to colic! However, while not recognized in Tillie's time, we now know that it and its derivatives are extremely addictive. Given honestly for a broken bone, Tillie found that she liked the feeling of it and needed more and more to obtain that feeling. It's honestly amazing that she managed as much free-thinking as she did while constantly high on it. 

There's a large enough cast with quite a few less-desirables that the mystery of the killer wasn't an easy one to figure out. There are also plenty of characters to adore along the way like the paper selling kids that Ian is familiar with, and Ian himself. While there's a smidge of romance in the book, it's definitely not at the forefront at all, which is honestly my preference. Instead, it's watching Tillie come into her own that makes this historical thriller/mystery what it is.