A review of The Wondrous Apothecary by Mary E Martin

Reviewed by Grady Harp

The Wondrous Apothecary
by Mary E Martin
Austin Macauley
Hardcover: 320 pages, September 2019, ISBN-13: 978-1643785035

Canadian author Mary E. Martin understands the craft of writing engrossing novels peopled with credible and fascinating characters, excellent management of varying locations around the world, and management of storylines that are propulsive and challenging in content and technique of development. In addition to writing a solid storyline for her Trilogy of Remembrance, she also demonstrates a rather thorough background in the visual arts and gracefully weaves that important historical stance into her story in a most mature and sophisticated manner. These are novels that will please a broad audience – those who love romance novels and those who want to explore the universal discussion of what is art at this particular time in history. Mary lives in Toronto.

Now Mary enhances that well crafted trilogy with an additional novel that extends the period and story even more. The two artists of the story are Alexander Wainwright and Rinaldo – different artists with different approaches and goals who lead us through a suspense filled story of art, love, life and liberation.

The book opens with a Prologue that suggests the intensity and drama that is forthcoming: ‘Security lights revealed starkly etched lines of frustration on the man’s face. Like a cat, he sprang up on the chain link fence across the alleyway and heaved himself upward. The sudden barking and snarling below made him freeze. Then fierce growling drove him further upward but not fast enough. Teeth sank into his trousers but not the flesh. Crying out, he struggled and kicked himself free. Shivering, he looked over his shoulder to see the glimmering eye of an immense bull mastiff. From his sack he pulled out a small package which he tossed to the ground. “Here!” he hissed. “Eat this. A gift from me—Rinaldo.” Panting hard, the dog grasped the package of raw meat between his teeth and retreated to a corner. Hunkering down, he tore at the parcel with his teeth. The man swung himself and his bag over the fence and then dropped down. Rising, he limped toward the back of the building. Now he was free to enter the art gallery.’ And the reader is free to enter the story!

Yes, the story lives up to the standards set in her Trilogy, but there is even more emphasis on art in this book, a factor that so obviously comes naturally to Mary. Reading The Wondrous Apothecary  is not only entertaining: this book is a primer on learning about observation and the impact of art.  Highly recommended.

About the reviewer: Grady Harp is the Art and Poetry Reviewer for Poets and Artists magazine and writes for other publications as well. He is the Art Historian for the quarterly journals The Art of Man and Vitruvian Lens and he has provided chapters and introductions to numerous books such as Powerfully Beautiful and 100 Artists of the Male Figure. He has produced exhibitions for the Arnot Art Museum in New York, Fresno Museum of Art, Nevada Museum of Art, National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in Chicago, and Cleveland State University Art Gallery and has served as a contributing artistic advisor for universities and colleges throughout California, in Berlin, the Centro Cultural de Conde Duque in Madrid, and in Oslo, Norway. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.