It’s 1859 and world-traveling botanical expert Merrick Tremayne believes his days of adventure are over after a leg injury. He has resigned himself to a life of solitude on his family’s deteriorating Cornwall estate with no company but his unhappy brother. When an old friend shows up to convince him to set off for Peru in search of cinchona tree cuttings for the East India Company, Merrick is initially resistant. With much needling from his friend and his brother threatening sending him to an asylum, Merrick relents and joins the expedition. Peru has a monopoly on the cinchona trees, the only source of quinine, and has begun charging exorbitant prices for the anti-malaria drug. The East India Company believes the Tremayne family’s ties to a remote village will allow him to sneak into the forest and smuggle out the cuttings under the guise of searching for frost-resistant coffee plants. Upon arriving in the village, Merrick discovers that the Peruvian mountains hide more than just the cure for malaria. There are exploding trees, a border of salt that is said to be fatal if crossed, moving statues, and a priest with a strange illness. When the quinine runners catch on to Merrick’s plan, he and the priest cross the salt border and enter the unknown forest hoping to make it out the other side alive.
This is Pulley’s second book, and has some loose ties to her debut, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, though each can be read as a stand-alone novel. A gifted storyteller, Pulley manages to make the fantastic aspects of her stories seem just as plausible as the mundane and shows the reader that true magic is found in love, trust, and enduring friendship. The Bedlam Stacks will be released in August 2017, but you can put your name on the holds list today!
- Reviewed by Portia