"A Beautiful Poison" by Lydia Kang, Lake Union Publishing, 350 pages, $14.95 (paperback)
The decadent Cutter house, sitting on its pedestal up Fifth Avenue, appears to be a safe haven from the looming World War and Spanish Influenza that plague New York City in 1918. It is a place where money is plentiful, greed is inherent and secrets are hidden behind each courteous smile.
Desperate to escape to her own privileged future, Allene Cutter’s curiosity and sharp intellect revel in the mysterious poisoning of a fellow socialite.
Determined to find the murderer, Allene turns to her two childhood best friends, the shunned and discarded Jasper and Birdie, for help in her conquest. With their own motives constantly in mind, Jasper and Birdie willingly seize the opportunity to re-enter the world of the wealthy upper class.
Reunited, the trio discover their elite world is not the one they once knew. From the Bellevue Hospital morgue, to rich Fifth Avenue, and the Evergreens Cemetery, poison leaks into the lives of Allene, Jasper and Birdie as they race to find a murderer that appears to know each of them personally.
In a society where money is worth more than truth, Allene, Jasper, and Birdie must rely on their own intellect and resources to solve a dark and personal mystery, and rediscover the trust they once had in each other.
"A Beautiful Poison" by Nebraska author Lydia Kang reveals the danger of blissful ignorance, the excessive power of privilege and the decay that can occur in the intimate bonds of friendship. The novel will leave the reader questioning the morality of revenge with its immersive narrative and mortally flawed and intriguing characters.
As for the question of who the killer is, the suspects will shift and move until the novel’s final pages, leaving only a few of the innocent alive and haunting the lives of those who remain.