A Beautiful Poison-by Lydia Kang

I know, I know…another mystery crime drama set in the late 19th-early 20th century, but I am nothing if not loyal (boring?, predictable?) once I find a genre that I enjoy reading and I am currently loving these books!

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang was my first audio book and I definitely came away with mixed feelings about listening to books rather than reading them. To be honest, I listened to about 2/3 of the book and read the other 1/3. I like that I can listen when I’m working out, taking a walk, or driving but when you find the reader’s voice grating it takes some of the joy out of listening. Unfortunately, the woman reading the book had a voice that reminded me of an actress whose voice I cannot stand…so much so that I had to look it up to make sure it wasn’t actually her reading the book, which it wasn’t. But the fact still remained that the voice reading the book was annoying to me which made me not want to listen to the story.

I was also disappointed in the author’s decision to make the female character’s inner monologues focus almost entirely on feelings, love, and sex, while the male characters dealt primarily with the logistics of solving the mystery with very little understanding of feelings or motivations. By way of example (without giving too much away) there is one male character who falls desperately in love with one of the main female characters, which in and of itself is not an issue, however, the author gives no reason for this infatuation. He apparently meets this woman for the first time at the beginning of the book at a party and the next thing we know he is supporting her struggling family, helping her at work, and whisking her off to hotels for afternoon trysts. The author makes the male character the ‘active doer’ and the female the ‘passive feeler.’ I guess I’m just getting tired of this particular stereotype and it’s especially disappointing when yet another female author portrays her characters in this way. I look forward to the day when we can understand women and men as comprehensive individuals with feelings, motivations, and personal agency, but alas, it appears we are not there yet.

Ok, I’ll jump down from my soap box and tell you a little about the story, hopefully, without giving too much away in case you decide to pick it up. The setting is the end of WWI (late 19-teens) and the three main characters are young adults trying to figure out their place in the world. One is a socialite, one used to be a socialite until his parents died and he was orphaned and penniless, and the third is the daughter of a household servant. These three grew up as friends and are now reunited when people close to them start dying. They work together to try and solve the mysteries of the deaths because the police are convinced that each death was an accident.

I will admit that by the end of the book I was curious about ‘who dunnit’ and the last 1/4 of the book went quickly because I wanted to know how it all fit together. A Beautiful Poison was certainly not the best crime/detective drama I’ve ever read but it was sufficiently interesting to keep me listening/reading which is always a good sign.

Read on my friends!