Cass and Ryan Connor have achieved family nirvana. With three kids between them, a cat and a yard, a home they built and feathered, they seem to have the Modern Family dream. Their family, including Cass’ two children from previous relationships, has recently moved to Seattle—a new start for their new lives. Cass and Ryan have stable, successful careers, and they are happy. But trouble begins almost imperceptibly. First with small omissions and white lies that happen daily in any marital bedroom. They seem insignificant, but they are quickly followed by a series of denials and feints that mushroom and then cyclone in menace.

With life-or-death stakes and irreversible consequences, Poison is a chilling and irresistible reminder that the closest bond designed to protect and provide for each other and for children can change in a minute.

The idea of a mom trying to have it all with a perfect home life plus career isn’t a new theme in literary works or even hard to grasp as it seems most moms these days are trying to walk the tightrope between ‘mom’, ‘wife’, and ‘employed’ rarely feeling like they aren’t about to fall off the edge. Niederhoffer took those insecurities we are hesitant to admit publicly or even to ourselves and created Cass to become a symbol for all women who face this struggle. The only part of her personality that doesn’t quite fit this mold is when the author asks us to suspend our belief in it by agreeing despite her education, strength, career focus and love of her children she would suddenly act in a contrary manner by allowing her and them to be in dangerous situations.

Niederhoffer does offer a probably explanation for the perceived lack of congruity but it still took a bit out of the story even though her behavior was necessary for the plot device – a paradox I guess.

As someone with a medical background I had a bit of trouble believing in the accuracy of how poison and its effects were used, I felt that needed a bit of work especially as there’s plenty of more plausible examples on CSI, Criminal Minds, etc that could’ve been lifted if you didn’t want to risk the government checking in on why you’re researching how to kill someone with poison.

Aside from my probably over nitpickiness of those minor details she did a good job of setting up the happy family ideal so it made it feel all that much worse when it imploded. You really feel for Cass becoming essentially mentally unhinged thanks to her husband. You have to stop yourself from checking the list of qualifications for a Psychopath to see if Ryan fit’s cause his behavior gets a ‘little’ scary. All of the drama, suspense, and danger unfolds at the perfect pace to keep you hanging in there but not anxious for it to get to the point.

Considering how often we’ve heard in the media lately about the legal system’s habit of discrediting women and disbelieving claims of domestic violence she did a remarkable job of bringing the good and the bad of those issues out within the confines of her story. There are many themes contained within that are probably going to make you think “Cosby Trial” thanks to how the idea of a female victim is portrayed.

Why are men so lazy as to go to the ‘woman is mentally unstable’ ploy? Can you not be more original? The answer is probably because it’s a guaranteed win – how are we supposed to fight against something the legal system doesn’t require proof of?

As a woman it was a hard book to read but that’s a credit to the author that I’m walking away feeling something rather than nothing.

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for allowing me to review this book.

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*synopsis and pic from Netgalley

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