The Last Drop of Hemlock by Katharine SchellmanThe Last Drop of Hemlock by Katharine Schellman
Narrator: Sara Young
Series: Nightingale Mysteries #2
Published by Dreamscape Media on June 6, 2023
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Historical Mystery
Length: 10 hrs 12 mins
Pages: 336
Format: Audiobook
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In The Last Drop of Hemlock, the dazzling follow up to Last Call at the Nightingale, even a dance can come with a price...

The rumor went through the Nightingale like a flood, quietly rising, whispers hovering on lips in pockets of silence.

New York, 1924. Vivian Kelly has gotten a job at the Nightingale, a speakeasy known to the young and fun as a place where the rules of society can be tossed aside for a dance and a drink, and things are finally looking up for her and her sister Florence. They might not be living like queens—still living in a dingy, two-room tenement, still scrimping and saving—but they're confident in keeping a roof over their heads and, every once in a while, there is fried ham for breakfast.

Of course, things were even better before Bea's Uncle Pearlie, the doorman for the Nightingale, was poisoned. Bea has been Vivian's best friend since before she can remember, and though Pearlie's death is ruled a suicide, Bea's sure her uncle wouldn't have killed himself. After all, he had the family to care for . . . and there have been rumors of a mysterious letter writer, blackmailing Vivian's poorest neighbors for their most valuable possessions, threatening poison if they don't comply.

With the Nightingale's dangerously lovely owner, Honor, worried for her employees' safety and Bea determined to prove her Uncle was murdered, Vivian once again finds herself digging through a dead man's past in hopes of stopping a killer.

The Last Drop of Hemlock is set in New York City in the 1920s. This is the second in the series and, while it does work as a stand-alone, I think you get a much better feeling for the characters if you read them in order. Vivian and her sister, Florence, are poor, but better off than they used to be. The setting, from their tenement building to the club where Viv works to the street’s cities, felt real. I loved the details – the smells, the sights, the people.

The mystery was well done. In a city where everyone works by their own moral standards, some of which are more gray than others, there are plenty of suspects in the murder. And Vivian’s reasons for looking into the death make sense- they can’t trust the cops. She has to call in a favor or two and puts herself in a couple of dangerous positions, but it all feels in character.

It’s not a quick moving book. It takes time to walk through the streets, to talk to everyone, to spend some time dancing. It’s not that Viv takes her time, it’s that she has the rest of her life to live in addition to catching the killer. She can’t afford to take off work, but she does have friends and family on her side.

I listened to the audio and the narrator did a fabulous job bringing Vivian and New York City to life. The characters were easily distinguishable and you can just hear their attitudes in her voices. I’m looking forward to the next in the series.

About Katharine Schellman

Katharine Schellman is a former actor and one-time political consultant. These days, she writes the Lily Adler Mysteries (Crooked Lane Books) and the Nightingale Mysteries (Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press). Last Call at the Nightingale is a Publishers Weekly Summer Reads Pick for 2022 and was a BookPage Most Anticipated Mystery & Suspense Book of 2022. Her debut novel, The Body in the Garden, was one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Books of 2020 and led to her being named one of BookPage’s 16 Women to Watch in 2020. Its sequel, Silence in the Library, was praised as “worthy of Agatha Christie or Rex Stout.” (Library Journal, starred review) Katharine lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her husband, children, and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering.

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