cover image The Poison Machine

The Poison Machine

Robert J. Lloyd. Melville House, $29.99 (464p) ISBN 978-1-61219-975-7

It’s 1679 in Lloyd’s outstanding sequel to 2021’s The Bloodless Boy, and English scientist Harry Hunt is hoping to succeed his friend and mentor, Robert Hooke, as the Royal Society of London’s Curator of Experiments. But after botching an electrical experiment, Hunt deems it wise to accept the offer of Sir Jonas Moore, the head of the Board of Ordnance, to become an investigator for the board. Moore asks him to travel to Norfolkshire to look into the murder of a man whose head was bashed in with a cannonball. Moore identifies the dead man, based on the size of the skeletal remains and initials on a knife, as Capt. Jeffrey Hudson, a dwarf treated like a plaything by then Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I. The plot thickens when Hunt learns someone has assumed Hudson’s identity and that the impersonation and murder may be linked to a missing diamond. Hunt’s pursuit of the truth, which takes him to France, imperils his life. Lloyd skillfully combines an endearingly flawed lead, jaw-dropping twists, and the fraught, conspiracy-laden politics of the Stuart Restoration. Iain Pears fans will be enthralled. Agent: Gaia Banks, Sheil Land Assoc. (U.K.). (Oct.)