One of the more intriguing elements of The Poisoned Island is the glimpse of life along the Thames that it provides. The various districts, docks, classes, and social rules create an amalgamation of life unique to that location and time period. Its vibrancy as well as its extremes are outstandingly portrayed by Mr. Shepherd, evoking all five senses and immersing the reader into the story.
The Poisoned Island is the Thames River Police’s beginning uses of modern investigative techniques. The doubt, suspicion, and mockery Horton and his team face at each stage of the investigation are an opportunity to learn about the evolution of police investigation. The more things change, however, the more things stay the same. The territorial battles Horton and his department face are very familiar to modern readers and help cross that bridge across time which can be so difficult in historical fiction.
Exotic locales, nautical history, investigative history, Victorian London, the haves versus the have-nots, and a hint of magic all combine to create an explosive story about revenge and the dangers of empire-building. The scenes occurring in Tahiti are as lush and erotic with a hint of danger as one would expect, while the scenes in London are the perfect opposite – harsh, grimy, tough, cold, restrained, and bleak. The juxtaposition between the two settings propels the narrative and heightens tension. Police Chief Horton is the perfect combination of logic and patience, and the entire story is a fascinating and suspenseful whodunit that will get the blood flowing and the heart pumping.