Tuesday, October 3, 2017

"A Beautiful Poison"

Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction.

Kang's novels include Control and Catalyst.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, A Beautiful Poison, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“But I already read those,” Jasper protested.

“When?” Gettler asked, incredulous.

“I’ve been working here for over two years. I read them during my ... erm ... breaks.”

“While you were in college? A bit early for someone your age, eh?”

Jasper shrugged. “I’m impatient.”

“I see. And you’re a terrible janitor, if you were spending all your time reading.”

“Yes sir, I was.”

Gettler laughed. “Well, I worked”—(woiked—Lord, that accent!)—“the night shift at the ferry while I finished my PhD. Who am I to talk?” He pushed the books aside and waggled his finger. “One other thing.”


“That dead girl.”

The grin on Jasper’s face melted away. “Yes?”

“Charles showed me the police file while you were dicing up that liver. Our office was not called for an autopsy. Dr. Norris can make a request to open the case, but it’s the police that have the final say.”

“Which means?”

“Which means our department can’t touch that body. And since you’re in our department now, you can’t either.”

Jasper wilted under his steady, icy gaze. What was the point of being here if he couldn’t find out what really happened to Florence? Or show the world that a kid from the Bowery could solve a Fifth Avenue crime?
The book is told in the POV of three characters—Jasper Jones, a poor man who was once rich; Allene Cutter, a debutante on the verge of an unhappy marriage, and Birdie Dreyer, gorgeous and slowly being poisoned to death by the radium she works with in her factory job. They each need each other for various reasons, and together, they are trying to solve murders even as people close to them begin to die unexpectedly.

I love this exchange between Alexander Gettler (a real historical figure—a toxicologist in the first Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York, which opened in 1918) and Jasper Jones, who is desperate to get his foot in the door and prove himself. Bringing Gettler and Charles Norris alive in the story was both humbling and quite exciting, and watching them interact with my fictional characters was delightful. Here, we get to see the parallels of Gettler’s life and Jasper’s, and the point at which they diverge in theirs goals and motives. Jasper is still ruminating about the cause of death of the first murder that appears on page one of the book.

It’s in the next page that we see Jasper’s choice—and you’ll have to read the book to see what it is!
Learn more about the book and author at Lydia Kang's website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Control.

The Page 69 Test: Catalyst.

--Marshal Zeringue