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Opium and Absinthe

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New York City, 1899. Tillie Pembroke’s sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker’s new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie’s imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can’t be—can it?

A ravenous reader and researcher, Tillie has something of an addiction to truth, and she won’t rest until she unravels the mystery of her sister’s death. Unfortunately, Tillie’s addicted to more than just truth; to ease the pain from a recent injury, she’s taking more and more laudanum…and some in her immediate circle are happy to keep her well supplied.

Tillie can’t bring herself to believe vampires exist. But with the hysteria surrounding her sister’s death, the continued vampiric slayings, and the opium swirling through her body, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for a girl who relies on facts and figures to know what’s real—or whether she can trust those closest to her.

379 pages, Paperback

First published July 1, 2020

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About the author

Lydia Kang

23 books2,129 followers
I love salt more than chocolate. I'm somewhat small, yet deceptively strong. Sort of like an ant.

I'm a part time doc, full time family member, and if you offer me snacks, I'll be a friend for life.

My adult fiction centers around historical mysteries in New York City, with splashes of forensics, anatomy, apothecary medicine, and chemistry! A BEAUTIFUL POISON takes place in 1918 at the height of the influenza epidemic; THE IMPOSSIBLE GIRL centers around the illegal grave robbing world; and forthcoming in July 2020 is OPIUM AND ABSINTHE, with--you guessed it--opium and absinthe. And possibly vampires!

I have a nonfiction adult book written with Nate Pederson entitled QUACKERY: A Short History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, coming in 2017 (Workman).

My most recent YA novel is TOXIC, a space opera about a created, teen girl who's abandoned on a biological spaceship, and the mercenary boy doomed to die on it. I've also written THE NOVEMBER GIRL, set on a remote island on Lake Superior. A girl with violence running through her veins meets a boy running away from an abusive home life. Both from Entangled Teen/Macmillan.

I'm also part of the new anthology, COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES, with Soho Teen coming in 2019!

My YA sci-fi novel, CONTROL, debuted December 2013 (Dial/Penguin). The sequel, CATALYST, released March 2015 (Kathy Dawson Books/Penguin). I released a short story in the dark YA anthology, AMONG THE SHADOWS October 2015.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,913 reviews
Profile Image for Kat valentine ( Katsbookcornerreads).
643 reviews876 followers
June 27, 2020
Vampires aren't the only monsters!

How good and thoughtful he is; the world seems full of good men—even if there are monsters in it. —Mina Harker

A couple of weeks ago Amazon had this book in their first looks section and I was drawn right away to the cover and title! In the blurb it mentioned vampire murders and if you follow my reviews you know I'm a vampire junkie! I was pleasantly surprised with how well written this book was,it had mystery and suspense and a cast of unusual characters that brought this story to life. This read is set in the Victorian era,which is one of my favorite times. Tille is a smart and well read young lady who has always been curious about how things work and is forever asking questions,but on the day she breaks her collar bone on a horse while taking riding lessons her beautiful sister Lucy is murdered by what the papers are calling a vampire killer. Tille won't stop til she finds out who or what killed her sister. With a list of suspects and Bram stokers book Dracula and help from Ian and his band of newsies the only thing standing in tille's way from finding the monster that killed her sister and two others is her opiate addiction,what started out as relief for her broken collar bone has become also a way of dealing with the loss of the one person who loved and cared about her.But as she needs more and more she goes from opium to shots of morphine to heroin and plays right into the killers hands. With twists and turns and a fabulous storyline this book will keep you guessing to the very end,because just about the time you think you figured it out it throws you for a loop again. Lydia kang is a fabulous storyteller and I can't recommend this book enough!!! Ty! Amazon for putting this book on my radar!!! Until next time Luv's💕💋

You’ll learn how to survive this, Mathilda. No woman lives a life unscathed. It’s what makes us strong. We are broken and mended, remade every time. We must, or it destroys us.”
Profile Image for J  (Midnight Book Blog).
183 reviews606 followers
July 9, 2020
I have to say, I really enjoyed this book despite not being a huge fan of the gothic genre in general. Usually gothic novels are very stiff in my opinion, and are somewhat challenging to read. Opium and Absinthe however was very fast-paced, enjoyable, and kept me turning pages until the end.

Although I enjoyed it, I feel it may not be for everyone. The murder-mystery aspect of it wasn’t the biggest draw, as I had figured out the “why” and was very close on the “who” at about 60% in. I don’t think that really hindered my enjoyment of the story though, because I was so invested in the journey and the way the novel was narrated.

I also thought that the characters were not the most lovable; the only one I really liked was Ian, and maybe the newsies, though they were not a large part of the story. Tillie was incredibly naive, almost unbearably so. I understand that as this took place in the 1890s, Tillie leads a very sheltered life as one of the elites, but it still was a bit unbelievable. I was constantly torn between feeling great pity for her because of the way her family treats her, and anger at some of her decisions. Despite that, I did greatly admire her perseverance, and desire to pursue knowledge despite her family’s views on a woman’s place in society.

In the end, I can’t quite put in to words why I enjoyed this as much as I did. Nothing about it stuck out, but the writing/story flowed in a way that was very pleasant to read. For now I am giving this a 3.5/5 rounded to 3/5, but I may round up after thinking about it more.
Thank you NetGalley for the ARC!

Content warnings: assault, murder, death of a loved one, mentions of rape, drug abuse
Intended audience: Adult
Profile Image for Tina.
540 reviews918 followers
October 18, 2020
I so love the cover and title of this book! I was intrigued by the blurb and was saving it for the "Halloween" season. 🧛🏻‍♂️

It is 1899 in New York City. Bram Stoker's book, "Dracula" is all the rage to read. Mathilda "Tillie" Pembroke's sister, Lucy, has just been found dead. Lying in an alleyway drained of her blood and with two puncture marks around her neck. They look like vampire bites. Tillie herself has just had a bad fall from a horse and is convalescing in bed trying to cope with her pain and grief. She is prescribed Opium (Laudanum) and Morphine by the doctor. She begins to read the popular book and goes on a quest to solve her sister's murder.

I really wanted to love this book but it just ended up being okay. Parts of it were unbelievable and it just got a bit repetitive. It read almost like a YA novel to me. It is still written well and easy to read and I did enjoy the nail-biting ending.

I'd like to kindly thank NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for granting me access to this Advanced Reader Copy.
Profile Image for Beverly.
833 reviews314 followers
August 21, 2021
Dazed and confused in the Victorian age.

This murder mystery/romance is a little slow paced, but picks up nicely at the end for the reveal of the murderer. I got sort of weary of the story of Tillie's struggle with opium. This seems to go on for a long, long time and the addition of absinthe and heroin to the mix was startling. Medicine in its infancy was a mix of trial and error and slapdash throwing of anything at the problem. Apparently, a lot of upper class women got addicted to opium. It was readily available and not thought to be harmful. Rich women had money and idle time and a society that wanted them constrained, so opium use was prevalent.

This is a pretty good story, but I think the author tried to stuff too many different things in. The quotes from Dracula were fun. I love that book! I thought towards the end that the author was not going to end it and that there was a sequel to it, but thankfully she did have an end with quite a bit of gore too. That was unexpected.
July 13, 2020
As much as I wanted to like this book, it was just not for me. The story rambled and there were occurrences where it just really stretched one's ability to believe to the ultimate. I do like a good vampire story, but unfortunately, this was just not a very good one. Although, that cover is just stunning, too bad what was contained inside it just missed the mark.

So sad to say, no recommendation for this one.
Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this story.
Profile Image for Fran.
661 reviews630 followers
July 18, 2020
"Even if she be not harmed, her heart may fail her in so much and so many horrors; and here after she may suffer-both in waking, from her nerves, and in sleep, from her dreams."
-Van Helsing

"It was a strange thing to be awake within a nightmare".

Tillie Pembroke had an inquisitive mind asking endless questions, although, in the New York of 1899, eighteen year old Tillie was being evaluated by the yardstick of "marital and societal utility". Lucy, her older sister "...would buffer Tillie from their family's disappointment when she made occasional gaffes in public". "It was nearly the turn of the century, a lady could speak for herself sometimes", thought Tillie. Lucy, twenty-one years old, was "the very image of a Gibson Girl", soon to marry well-connected James Cutter. Back-to back shattering events changed everything. A horseback riding accident. Tillie broke her clavicle and was immediately given laudanum..."a soporific cloud settled over her mind"...oppressive pain...morphine followed.

"Get your WORLD for a penny", a Newsie cried. Headline- Vampire Strikes Manhattan, Kills Lady Near Museum...Woman Found Dead in Shadow of Metropolitan Museum of Art...Vampire-like Punctures Found on Neck....Empty Absinthe Bottle Found with Body...Victim Last Seen Wearing a Lilac Silk Dress....Cause of Death: Exsanguination. No blood found at the scene. Oh no! It was Lucy! Bram Stoker's Dracula had just been published. Lucy's death seemingly imitated Count Dracula's lust for blood. Tillie was determined to get her hands on a copy of Dracula...ASAP!

"I cannot live without my Lucy...Tillie drank her medicine...More. Another dose. I cannot be awake...Numbness would do...and so opioid addiction began. In moments of clarity, Tillie questioned...why would Lucy walk unaccompanied to the museum? Lucy seldom imbibed, why absinthe? Newsie Ian Metzger had a "keen interest" in murders. Both Ian and Tillie had the same burning curiosity over Lucy's death "...a dark, deep hole that begged to be filled with reasons and facts". How would Tillie circumvent the restrictions that kept her locked at home except for sanctioned social events? Was Lucy's death a vampiric killing? Count Dracula had feasted on the blood of a "Lucy". Two Lucys dead, hmm. Two bite marks on the neck, four inches apart...not a drop of blood on or near the victim. If not a Dracula-like murder, what other theories might exist?

"Opium and Absinthe" by Lydia Kang is a gothic mystery with amateur sleuths, Tillie and Ian as investigators. While there are enablers who keep Tillie supplied with opiates, she finds ways, albeit while sometimes in a fog, to dole out just desserts, some literal, others edible, as she tries to unravel the truth. This riveting tome stagnated a bit midway with too much emphasis on opioids. It picked up speed unmasking characters with dubious agendas then barreled to a surprising and satisfying conclusion. A mystery lover's delight.

Thank you Lake Union Publishing and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for jenny✨.
578 reviews837 followers
February 6, 2021
There was an untold story that had to be found and wrested from the shut lips of New York City itself.

these are the songs I listened to while reading Opium and Absinthe!


⭐️⭐️⭐️✨I kinda really wish time travel existed so I could traipse around New York's Gilded Age with Tillie as my guide.

Opium and Absinthe is SO evocative. It only takes a few paragraphs of Lydia Kang's lush prose (and spot-on diction; anachronisms, whomst?) before you find yourself immersed in a city that is a character in its own right—

NEW YORK CITY, 1899: It's the turn of the century! High society is booming, even as the immigrants and working class strike and struggle. Paperboys hawk wares, Italian men bang pianos on street corners. Horse-drawn carriages fill streets that've begun to glow with electricity. Speakeasies and saloons belch opium smoke. Meanwhile, the moneyed elite luxuriate in Fifth Avenue mansions, tended to by French servants.

It's a time of change. And inquisitive, insatiable Tillie Pembroke wants to know—devour, research, analyze—it all.

Tillie's meek and clumsy, nothing like her beautiful and charming sister, Lucy. But when Lucy is murdered and all clues point to a vampire killer, Tillie's life will never be the same. She throws herself into breaking free of her stifling birthright as a New York heiress. She chases leads and becomes an investigative journalist, addicted to knowing and learning everything about the world around her.

All the while, she discovers the only thing that dulls her pain, awkwardness, and grief is opium. And as she hunts her sister's killer, Tillie is consumed by an equally insatiable addiction—to morphine.


My biggest issue with this book was that I personally couldn't connect with the characters. I didn't find any of them particularly likeable, which is fine, but the grievous sin was that I didn't find them compelling, either.

Tillie was spoiled and selfish and acted like such a brat sometimes that I just wanted to THROTTLE her. The love interest was nice but kinda forgettable imo. Tillie's mom is a wet rag. Her grandmama piqued my interest (the old lady's seriously a viper) but her backstory is never examined.

I also struggled to engage with the mystery—the hunch I had by page 20 was pretty much proven correct by the end, while the bulk of the story just felt like a series of red herrings that came outta left field and felt totally unnecessary and unconvincing? When we finally received explanations for why xyz occurred, it was PALTRY.

(Like, can someone explain to me why a meticulous killer would cavalierly leave their used-up absinthe bottles at the crime scene???) And ??


CONCLUSION: Though Opium and Absinthe's mystery and characters weren't altogether compelling for me, I absolutely ADORED its vivid depictions of New York City's Gilded Age.

Thank you NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for an e-copy of this book for review!
Profile Image for Linda.
1,285 reviews1,329 followers
March 11, 2021
"Nobody will laugh long who deals much with opium: its pleasures even are of a grave and solemn complexion." (Thomas De Quinsey)

Lydia Kang takes us deep into the fringes of the Gilded Age in New York City in 1899. She's going to see to it that we feel the prick of the needle and the warmth of the Absinthe as it goes down so easily. We'll sit with a woozy head alongside our heroine boggled as to why our eyes have glazed over.

Tillie Pembroke has suffered a great loss. Her twenty-one year old sister, Lucy, was murdered recently and the police seem to have hit upon a cold trail. Lucy was engaged to the dashing James Cutter and was to have been married within the month. Lucy was the darling of the family. Drab Tillie was not.

But Tillie was born with a natural instinct for getting down into the intricacies of how things work. Her curious nature is not easily detoured. Lucy was found with two small puncture wounds on her neck. Lydia Kang hands our girl Tillie the latest copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula and Tillie springs forward from its very pages. We're now on the hunt for vampires in New York City. And when two more bodies are found with the same wounds......"I want to suck your blood" becomes a little ditty playing inside Tillie's head.

But our girl becomes sidelined after a serious fall from her horse and the breaking of her collarbone. She's given laudanum in copious amounts for pain. As the pain escalates, morphine is injected. Tillie begins to seek higher and higher doses until she can't go without it. Back in the day, even Bayer Company (Aspirin) gave out heroin in tablet form for pain. Them there Victorians couldn't tolerate a hangnail without drama or a swig of the dark liquid.

And here's where Opium and Absinthe gets into the high weeds. (Oh, pun intended there.) Tillie is a wee bit of a girl. Kang has Tillie taking vast amounts of opiates that would railroad a bulldozer of a man, but Tillie still functions in her detective role of finding out who murdered her sister. As the story progresses, Kang throws everything except a cast-iron skillet to the head to sidetrack Tillie. The girl has nine lives and more.

Opium and Absinthe is still an offering to look into. It doesn't compare to some of Lydia Kang's earlier works like A Beautiful Poison (2017) and The Impossible Girl (2018). I love this author and look forward to her latest. Just go into this one knowing you'll be inhaling what someone is smokin' at the back of the room.
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,221 reviews1,560 followers
December 23, 2021
Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang is a historical mystery mixed with a bit of paranormal fantasy and a bit of romance. Of course I would be interested in this one as someone who loves all kinds of books this one looked like good genre soup to devour.

The story is set in New York City in 1899 where Tillie Pembroke has just lost her sister. Tillie has always been the curious type so of course she wants to know what happened to her sister and why. The case has gone cold pushing Tillie to take matters into her own hands.

Tille knows that her sister’s body was found with two puncture wounds in her neck and drained of blood. A new novel has just been published, Dracula, which Tillie picks up to read and finds a terrible similarity to her sister’s death. When more bodies are found Tillie knows she is tracking a vampire in the city.

Opium and Absinthe was not my first book by Lydia Kang having read a couple of others by her before. I expected going into this one that I would enjoy it and would find a creative story inside and both of those were true. I would say this one was a little slower pace than I would prefer and I’m not normally a huge fan of drug use stories but the creativity and nature of the time of this historical setting I still enjoyed the book. Overall I’d say this one rated three and a half stars for me and I’d definitely read this author again.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for Dreamer.
61 reviews12 followers
April 17, 2020
What a fantastic read! I absolutely loved this Victorian Murder Mystery with a paranormal touch and a sprinkle of romance. The New York City in 1899 was painted so vividly and accurately, I felt immediately immersed in the culture and the environment. I was amazed with the detailed and fascinating medical parts, too.
The main character Tillie was a delight with her forever curious mind, resourcefulness, ambition, and her devotion to her sister. Her persistence and bravery to find her sister’s killer despite the harsh obstacles such as her injury, spiraling into a drug addiction, and being a prisoner of a strict household and Victorian era etiquette. This book made me weep, smile, laugh, and think.
It was a perfect blend of Sherlock Holmes, Penny Dreadful and a Dress For The Wicked. Bonus points for the gorgeous cover!
740 reviews319 followers
June 27, 2020
(2.5 stars) This is the third novel by Kang that I have read and it is my least favorite. It has the bones to be a good read. The author is a medical doctor and is versed in the medical, health, and anatomy aspects of the story and has also done some acceptable research about late 19th-century New York City and the Gilded Age. She has also shown us an interesting parallel between the over-prescription causes of opioid addiction now in the 21st century and in the 1800s.

This is a medical murder mystery, Kang's specialty. However, the time spent on the murder and the heroine's investigation of it is much less than the endless time we must spend reading about Tillie's downward spiral into opioid addiction. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this story anyway, in spite of the many wasted pages, if the writing had been better and the characters had been developed more skillfully. As it was, I found everyone to be superficially developed, almost caricatures, and unappealing and unlikable.

The plot tries to be interesting and compelling. Tillie is a creature of her era, born to a rich family of the Gilded Age Four Hundred and brought up to marry well, not to have a mind of her own or to have any interests beyond the socially acceptable ones. She is repressed, awkward and uncomfortable in social situations, and, in private, a person with a thirst for knowledge. She wants to know the answers to all life's questions, even those most people wouldn't even think about, such as what elephant excrement smells like.

Only her sister Lucy understands and loves her and when Lucy is murdered on the same day that Tillie is badly hurt in a riding accident, Tillie's life begins to unravel. Lucy's murder appears to be vampiric in nature, with puncture wounds on her neck and her body drained of blood. Is this in imitation of the new book by Bram Stoker so popular at the moment or do vampires really exist?

Inquiring minds (Tillie's, that is) want to know, but her growing addiction to the laudanum and then morphine prescribed by the doctor for her pain gets in the way. It gets in the way so much that the story drags. In addition, I find it hard to enjoy a book with few redeeming characters, lots of puzzling behavior, and a writing style that is rather amateur, lacking polish. This is not literature. It's basic storytelling. I guess if you enjoy gruesome medical details and annoying human behavior, Kang's books will appeal.
Profile Image for Monica Montrose.
156 reviews91 followers
August 3, 2020
•I’ve received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a review•

Opium and absinthe is a really well written book. The idea behind it is fascinating for sure and unique.
The writing style is smooth and keeps you hooked, I’ve finished it all in one afternoon because I could not wait to know everything.
Although I guessed the reason behind the murders, the person who did them was unexpected; so that’s a bonus.
The only negative thing is that the beginning was a little slow.

3.4 stars
Profile Image for Jennifer.
444 reviews200 followers
December 21, 2020
DNF - 20% plus adventitious skimming. I will never be in the mood to read about a wide-eyed ingenue making shitty decisions, regardless of the cool setting (Fin de Siecle England) or beautiful cover (Art Nouveau style opium poppies). My skimming revealed that I guessed wrong about the murderer, but not about the shitty decisions, and .
Profile Image for Lyndie.
363 reviews70 followers
August 11, 2020
Picture this...

Its 1899 in New York City, and a young woman lies dead, her body drained of its blood AND she has two puncture wounds on her neck. There is a new book that was just released, its called Dracula. Surely the murderer couldnt be a vampire..could he?

Opium and Absinthe follows Tillie Pembroke on her quest to solve her sisters murder and it is one HELL of a quest. Tillie plays amuteur slueth with the help of a newsie named Ian. Not only is she pushing towards justice for her sister she is also battling a horrid Opioid addiction, which only adds fuel to the flames. But unlike Ian not all the characters have Tillies best interest at heart and their questionable agendas are steadily made clear and result in a satisfying conclusion.

Overall I loved this Murder Mystery, it had a nice splash of romance and paranormal that kept thing interesting and added depth to the story.

I recieved a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ankit Garg.
251 reviews353 followers
October 18, 2020
Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang is a gothic mystery novel that involves a young protagonist trying to solve her elder sister's murder mystery, while trying to make a name of her own in the world where her family wants her to get married and settle like other 'ladies' of their stature.

The central theme of the book includes the newly released Bram Stoker's Dracula, since the story is set in the same year. The modus operandi of the murders appears to be a lot like the fictional dracula, and the protagonist has to work hard to prove that it is a mere human capable of doing such tasks. The way a young mind goes about the research and then reaches learned conclusions is what I liked the most in this book. The way she falls upon drugs at a low moment in her life, and then understands their weakness and gets over it is the moral lesson everyone can take away from the read.

Thanks to the author and the publisher for the ARC.

Verdict: Recommended.
Profile Image for Teresa.
505 reviews134 followers
July 17, 2020
Oh, my, what an unusual book. Set in gothic Victorian times in New York City 1899, it focuses on eighteen-year-old Tillie Pembroke whose older sister Lucy has been killed, drained of blood, and left with two puncture wounds on her neck. Tillie immediately is sure her sister has been murdered by a vampire and sets out to prove it. Before her sister’s death she is injured in a riding accident and is given laudanum and opium for the pain. This was common for the times for wealthy women to receive drugs for various ailments and in the process of the book the drug use increases. For some strange reason I kept having the recurring thought that I was glad I came from poor, hardworking people who just worked through their issues by forging ahead sans drugs.

There are so many characters in this book that I didn’t know who to suspect. Several new people come into her life to assist her on her quest for justice which made me immediately suspicious. The story became tedious at times especially around her escalating drug use, but I was impressed with her tenacity and dedication to the truth. Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. I gave this it 2 ½ stars rounded up to 3.
Profile Image for Roz.
676 reviews187 followers
June 21, 2020
2.5 stars

My main issue with this book was that it read like a ya novel.. and halfway through the main character started to annoy me way too much.. It was an okay read, though. Not bad just meh.
Profile Image for Yvonne (It's All About Books).
2,108 reviews260 followers
July 4, 2020

Finished reading: July 3rd 2020

"A vampire was shackled, it seemed, to the lusts and needs of his body. Tillie, too, felt her world as a closed casket, always around her, always constricting her."

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

P.S. Find more of my reviews here.
Profile Image for Picky_Book_B1tch.
611 reviews48 followers
January 3, 2021
2.5 Stars

This book had some good moments but overall it didn't live up to my hopes.

I didn't connect with the characters, the plot was a bit scattered and the solving of the mystery was too convenient to be believable. The main character's addiction problem seemed to be wholly out of place. It was mentioned at every turn and nearly every character enabled her along the way. I was sure it would play into the mystery or have a major role in the resolution of the story. Nope. It was just so very odd and out of place.
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,423 reviews215 followers
April 1, 2021
I'm pretty sure I had high expectations for Opium and Absinthe before diving into it. Once I did, it started off okay - a bit slow - but I still had hope that it would pick up and be amazing. Just like the cover looks. Unfortunately, the cover is amazing but the book sort of fell flat for me.

Some parts were pretty enjoyable and others felt a bit repetitive. Plus Tillie was way to easy to give drugs to. I get that she was addicted due to an awful injury but she just took whatever from whoever without questions. It also didn't help that certain people around her were quite manipulative as well.

Then the whole mystery of who was the murderer wasn't a complete shock either. If you know where to look for the clues, it's pretty easy to spot who did it and why. I also didn't like any of the characters throughout this. Main or side. There was just always something about them that would annoy or frustrate me. Easy to manipulate or just a pain self-absorbed cheating asshole. You name it - it probably annoyed me.

In the end, it was an okay book. Interesting in some parts but okay in others.
Profile Image for Sarah Mac.
1,098 reviews
August 30, 2022
This one hurt, guys. Grisly murders, 1890s, Dracula motif, illicit habits of the gilded-age upper crust…be still, my Victorian Macabre heart! *fans self*

…But nope. Not this time.

The characters were flat & uninteresting, the protagonist was incredibly annoying (translation: juvenile, oblivious, stupid), & the plot wandered aimlessly, cobbled together like a Frankenstein monster. The author’s agenda (i.e., our modern opioid crises) was screamingly obvious; the antique medical practices weren’t presented in a way that made the reader identify with their flawed logic, or perhaps ponder the tragedy of wince-worthy “advances” that later prove to be mistakes—rather, it came off in a snide, superior tone, like “Hey, look at the dumb Victorians! They think HEROIN is safe! And wtf would anyone suppose drinking sick people’s blood would cure disease?? Lolz!!” I’d guess maybe 80% of the book is Tillie wandering around drunk, stoned, or high as a kite, though these scenes were supposed to make her sympathetic, an everywoman victim of society that’s just longing to be free & do her own thing…gee, where have we seen a quirky, oddball, Not Like Other Girls heroine before?? 🥱

Random plot hole: Tillie’s mother & grandmother physically abuse our heroine (yank her hair, twist her wrist, threaten to hit her), but that was never addressed by anyone. Classy. There were other holes, no doubt, but by the halfway point I was speed-reading & didn’t care. 🙄

Add to the mess a ridiculous love triangle & I was rolling my eyes so much I got a headache. Seriously, James is a creep—I’m not defending him, per se, but rather the Suitable Boys of love triangles everywhere. Of course we must give Tillie no option but to fall for the Unsuitable Outsider Boy, & that means ensuring James is a total ass. He’s a fortune-hunting misogynistic caveman in an expensive Victorian suit, the kind who sexes maids, impregnates companions, supplies drugs, hits women, disrespects female intelligence, smothers, patronizes…the list goes on. And then?? We must also villainize the third (minor-role) love interest Tom, by making him a drug-addicted wannabe rapist, because god forbid there be any viable contender other than Outsider Boy for idiot Tillie’s affections. 🤢🤮 The romance was so utterly predictable that it made me want to throw the book out the window.

One final note: this isn’t billed as YA, but everything about it is Young Adult to the max. Don’t go in expecting adult lit fic, or even adult cozy mystery. It’s a teen protagonist with teen problems + teen worldview hampered by teen idiocy. Proceed with caution, depending on your taste for YA—the cover is beautiful, but the content is a snooze.
Profile Image for Courtney.
296 reviews31 followers
July 19, 2020
I enjoyed this Victorian historical mystery. Tillie Pembroke, is not your typical Victorian female, she is downright shocking sometimes, with her consumption of drugs. Tillie, spends much of the books in an inebriated state of mystery.

Thank you to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for allowing me to review this arc.
Profile Image for The Sassy Bookworm.
3,459 reviews2,357 followers
July 24, 2020
First thing first, the cover on this one is GORGEOUS. I love it!

Okay, so onto the book...this was a fun read. Well written. Likable and itriguing charcaters. An autmospheric and interesting setting. A mystery that kept me guessing until the end. Just an enjoyable read overall. I'd love to see more books featuring these charcaters!
Profile Image for Linden.
1,528 reviews1 follower
November 12, 2020
Tillie is a sheltered heiress living in New York at the end of the 19th century. On a hunt, she falls from her horse, breaks her clavicle, and begins to take opium for the pain. When her beloved sister Lucy is found dead with two puncture wounds in her neck, avid reader Tillie wonders if there could be a vampire roaming Manhattan. She forms a friendship with Ian, a poor Jewish newsboy from the Lower East Side, and they seek out the truth behind the murder of her sister and several others. What do the victims have in common? Are any of the people Ian and Tillie suspect of involvement only seen at night? And what do the servants know about Lucy's death? I liked the historical setting and the main character, but some aspects of the plot, such as Tillie and Ian's cross-class friendship, Tillie exposing herself to a deadly disease on the off chance that she might trap the murderer, and a visit by renowned reporter Nellie Bly, didn't ring true for me.
July 24, 2020
“This was the geography of the dead. And she must tread here for a while, with respect and without fear.”

So some while ago, I became a fan of the podcast sawbones by Sydnee and Justin McElroy. Over the span of a couple of months, I listened to hundreds of hours of their back catalogue before finally catching up and keeping caught up with the podcast in recent years. I suspect that if you are a fan of that podcast you will also enjoy this book. That may seem like an incongruent comparison, considering one is a medical history podcast and one is a rather gruesome Victorian style murder mystery. However, I think if you give it a chance, it becomes fairly immediately apparent that Lydia Kang is another medical doctor in the vein of Sydnee McElroy, who enjoys sharing knowledge about unusual medical treatments from days gone by.

This is my first Lydia King book. Well I was reading it I did take a moment to look through herGood reads profile and see what kinds of other books she’s published. She definitely has a sub genre of preference. I think I may be tempted to give some of her other books ago.

Fair warning to those who may be sensitive to such topics, but as the title may suggest, this book includes descriptions of extremely heavy alcohol and substance abuse issues. Unexpectedly it also includes a rather horrifying graphic attempted sexual assault.

Tilly Pembroke has a horse riding accident the same day her sister goes missing. Her sister Lucy is later found to have been murdered and exsanguinated. Till he becomes absolutely determined to discover the truth about her sisters death and make sure that her murder is brought to justice. Things are complicated by the fact that her serious injury was treated with opium, which leads Tilly into a self-destructive spiral of drug addiction that eventually escalates into a morphine and heroin habit due to the enabling of her social circle and physician.

Tilly’s mother and grandmother are some of the most horrible and unlikable characters I have encountered in literature in a very long time. They are selfish, unempathetic, and hideously snobbish aristocrats Who would rather torture Tilly and themselves than allow even a hint of scandal or human emotion taint their family name.

Another angle that I wouldn’t have expected from a gothic novel like this one, is that it also has a fairly significant subplot revolving around the newsboys strike of 1899 (which is the subject of one of my favorite musicals, Newsies). As I read, I had strong suspicions that the author was a fan of the musical, but had just about talked myself into believing it to be a coincidence when the author’s not at the end gave me vindication.

So, if you are looking for a really unusual newsies fanfiction AU with a side of gruesome murder and rather suspect historical medical practices, then this of the book for you.
Profile Image for Tammie.
1,353 reviews160 followers
November 6, 2020
New York City, 1899. Tillie Pembroke’s sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker’s new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie’s imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can’t be—can it?

A ravenous reader and researcher, Tillie has something of an addiction to truth, and she won’t rest until she unravels the mystery of her sister’s death. Unfortunately, Tillie’s addicted to more than just truth; to ease the pain from a recent injury, she’s taking more and more laudanum…and some in her immediate circle are happy to keep her well supplied.

Tillie can’t bring herself to believe vampires exist. But with the hysteria surrounding her sister’s death, the continued vampiric slayings, and the opium swirling through her body, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for a girl who relies on facts and figures to know what’s real—or whether she can trust those closest to her.

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I went into this knowing that this author's books are hit or miss with me. Miss more often, to be honest, but somehow the beautiful covers always draw me in. Plus the description for this one sounded so intriguing. The beginning of the book pulled me in pretty easily. Tillie seemed like an unusual, somewhat quirky girl, and I could get behind that. Unfortunately she ended up being very foolish and came off too young for her age.

One of my problems with the book as a whole is it felt rather YA when it's supposed to be an adult novel. Then there is the whole issue of nothing much happening except for Tillie spiraling into opium addiction for most of the book. There are three murdered bodies discovered within that time as well, but it just felt like the book was more about addiction than anything else.

The added in "vampire" intrigue was not a bad idea, but there wasn't enough of it, and it seemed like Tillie made one bad decision after another while purporting to investigate what happened to her sister. There weren't enough clues dropped for this to be a good mystery. Tillie mostly just stumbled onto things while being foolish, and that left me, as the reader wondering where it was going.

Review also posted at Writings of a Reader
Profile Image for Brinley.
1,037 reviews70 followers
October 20, 2020
With a cover as beautiful as this, I was really expecting a beautiful story too. Don't get me wrong, I loved this book, I just had one large problem with it. I loved the setting, the plot, and the atmosphere it brought you in to. I was completely immersed in this book from the first page, and could barely put it down.

Opium and Absinthe follows Tillie after her sister is brutally murdered, drained of blood, and left with only a bite mark on her neck. Soon after, another vampire-like killing is discovered, and Tillie is determined to find the killer. Hindering Tillie's efforts is a growing addiction to opium and morphine, which she fell into to staunch her grief.

The atmosphere is really what made this book stand out. It was the perfect book for Halloween, as it was dark and bewitching. Watching Tillie slowly fall into the trap of opium and drugs was unlike anything I've read before, and it'll stick in my mind for some time to come.

The romance was another thing I really loved about this. Instead of shoving it down our throats like so many books do, the romance in this was written artfully. Tillie and Ian took the entire book to get together, and it was always light. I was also super happy that the author didn't end up making this have a love triangle, I was worried it would go that way.

My main problem with this book was our main character, Tillie. In the time frame this was set in, women were expected to get married and have kids, and do little else. Tillie completely challenged this, which is great, but the author's effort stopped there. Every other female character in this book is either crazy, or content to being controlled by her husband. Instead of making Tillie seem enlightened, it just made her overly special. I really wish Tillie would've had a good female friend, who was genuine and also challenged the social expectations of the time. It wasn't a huge deal, but it did make this slightly harder to enjoy.

With a bewitching atmosphere, this book is definitely one that I'll remember. I can definitely see myself rereading this, because it was definitely different than what I normally read. I'd totally recommend this!
Profile Image for Emma.
2,506 reviews855 followers
July 18, 2020
3.5 stars. This should have been also classified as YA. It was a pleasant enough though derivative story and I enjoyed its setting and details in turn of the century New York.
Profile Image for Mary ♥.
450 reviews105 followers
June 28, 2021
4/5 stars

Unpopular opinion, but this is much better than Stalking Jack the Ripper *review to come*
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