The Poisoning Angel by Jean Teulé tr. by Melanie Florence #TranslationThursday

Poisoning (3)A real-life character tour de force from French author Jean Teulé featuring a famous female serial killer from the nineteenth century.

Hélène Jégado is warned about and thus introduced to the deathly effects of certain plants and flowers from a young age, she learns what to watch out for, including their superstitions.

‘Maman, who’s this Ankou you’re always talking about?’

Her mother tells her he is Death’s worker, the girl becomes obsessed with this idea, and makes it her vocation to fulfill his wishes, the only way she knows how.

Beginning with the demise of her very own maman.

Ankou‘The Ankou wears  a cloak and a broad hat,’ said Anne Jégado, sitting down again. ‘He always carries a scythe with a sharpened blade. He’s often depicted as a skeleton whose head swivels constantly at the top of his spine like a sunflower on its stem so that with one glance he can take in the whole region his mission covers.’


A story of the travels and inclinations of a girl who after poisoning her mother, travels from household to household as a domestic cook unable to restrain herself from eventually succumbing to the desire to add that little something extra to the recipe, her speciality the infamous soupes-aux-herbes.

Her deathly intent, seemingly existed without malice or evil inclination, more of an addiction, a calling, a macabre loyalty to that voice in her head, the legend of Ankou, death’s helper, leading her on, guiding her towards the next victim.

Each chapter begins with a small map of the Breton region, indicating her journey, where she will travel to next, until finally, very much later, she is confronted and must face her accusers.

Macabre, yet told with an element of detachment that stops it from being sinister. Entertaining and fascinating, a little insight into another era and a moment of unforgettable history in the north of France.


Note: This book was an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) kindly provided by the publisher Gallic Books.

13 thoughts on “The Poisoning Angel by Jean Teulé tr. by Melanie Florence #TranslationThursday

  1. Oh my goodness, I like the sound of this one, Claire. Your commentary reminds me a little of Patrick Suskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, which I liked very much. Have you read it?


    • I thought of exactly that when this was sent to me Jacqui, I loved that book, and especially given my aromatherapy background and training, I’m a little partial to essences and potions and remedies, all for good cause of course! I make new blends every week. Perfume was a stand out read for sure. This is based on a true story and less creepy, despite the events, presenting the character as if she were driven by malevolent forces (the legend of Ankou) and not her own free will. I really liked it, it reads as if from another era, which indeed it was!

      Liked by 1 person

    • That intrigued me too, how slow they were to catch up with her, but remembering another novel based on events, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, The Murder at Raod Hill House by Kate Summerscale – detectives hadn’t been invented yet in England, so probably not in France then either, and since she moved from one place to another, it wasn’t until she came full circle that they “discussed” rather than suspected her actions!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent Judy, Gallic Book titles are a fabulous way of getting to know French literature through translation, you may then like to read it in French too!

      Have you read Philippe Claudel’s La Petite Fille de Monsieur Linh? I think you’ll really like this one too, the English version is called Monsieur Linh and His Child, I reviewed it here a couple of years ago, we read it for book club in both languages; here is the link to my review:

      La Petite Fille de Monsieur Linh


    • I don’t know his work, but from what I’ve just read, you could be read, I’ll be interested to see if you think that after reading this Marina, it’s an easy read, with an interesting reference to superstition, written in a kind of detached way that makes it almost humorous, in a macabre way of course.


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