The Poison Machine — October Book of the Month

Daring and enthralling, high-strung and irresistible, Robert J. Lloyd’s magnificent historical thriller knows no limits in its twisting plot of imposters, spies and secret schemes. Our October Book of the Month, this is the much-anticipated sensational sequel to The Bloodless Boy in the Hunt and Hooke series: THE POISON MACHINE. Lloyd masterfully intertwines fiction with history, following the continuing exploits of Harry Hunt who, in pursuit of uncovering a murderous plot, meets a vibrant host of historical figures, such as King Louis XIV, Isaac Newton and Catherine of Bragança. Fast-paced, witty and captivating, Lloyd whisks us back to the 17th century and plunges us into a gripping mystery.

Set in 1679, a year after the series’ debut action took place, scientist and detective Harry Hunt investigates the accidental exhumation of a skeleton by fenland workers, after separating from his mentor Robert Hooke. The body is identified as Captain Jeffrey Hudson, a former court dwarf of Queen Henrietta Maria. Yet Hudson has been seen alive, or at least, someone calling himself Hudson and living as his identity, has been seen. With his friend and old soldier Colonel Fields and Hooke’s niece Grace, Hunt chases this imposter’s trail, his relentless pursuit taking him to Paris. Soon, he uncovers a much darker and violent conspiracy against the Queen of England, Catherine of Bragança, and her Catholic followers which involves an undercover invasion, a secret ambush and a whole lot of poison…

Interestingly, Lloyd chooses two real historical figures as the eponymous title of his new series: Hunt and Hooke. Robert Hooke (1635-1703), famously known for being Isaac Newton’s rival, was the Curator of Experiments for the Royal Society of London, with Harry Hunt as his apprentice. Hooke’s work on anatomy and blood transfusions became Lloyd’s inspiration for The Bloodless Boy, with Hooke’s real-life diary and scientific experiments as muses to create an inventive and brilliant historical fiction. There is a certain playfulness and genius in taking historical figures and bringing them to life in the 21st century by reimagining the bizarre but real past events through the medium of historical fiction. The infamous dwarf Jeffrey Hudson was indeed part of Queen Henrietta Maria’s court, who was presented to her in a large pie from which he jumped out of, an act by which she was thrilled by. A more severe side of Hudson is revealed when he challenged a man to a duel in France, a duel which his challenger did not take seriously choosing the weapon of a water gun, resulting in Hudson shooting him fatally. It is after this incident that The Poison Machine is set, the last that was heard of the real Hudson was that he was sent back to England in disgrace… after which the characters in the novel discover his skeleton.

Impeccably written, full to the brim with thrills, suspense and the hot pursuit of adventure, with witty and whimsical interpretations of historical characters, places and events, this is an incredibly enrapturing and exhilarating novel. For historical fiction readers, for thrill seekers, for mystery lovers, for adventure addicts, this utterly dazzling title packs a serious punch.

‘Wonderfully imagined and wonderfully written, this is an impeccable historical mystery… Superb!’

Lee Child

‘This compelling mystery is stuffed to the seams with all manner of skulduggery.’

Daily Mail

‘Hugely entertaining… the mystery romps along.’

The Times

The Poison Machine by Robert J. Lloyd is published on 27/10/2022

Melville House Publishing, 9781612199757, h/b, £20.00

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