Autumn 1615. A scandal pervades the Jacobean court. A popular, much admired couple are imprisoned for murder. Frances is young and captivating. Rescued from an abusive marriage, she is determined to make a new life with her second husband, whatever the cost. Robert has risen from nothing to become one of the country’s most powerful men. But to get to the top, you cannot help making enemies. Now a man is dead. And someone must pay with their life.

This new historical thriller is based on a true story of two wealthy courtiers arrested for murder in the 17th century. It is billed as ‘Gillian Flynn meets The Miniaturist’, and I certainly see the similarities to the former’s twisting and unpredictable plots. But, unfortunately, it also shared the latter’s propensity for flaws.

My main problem with this book was its lack of subtlety. Fremantle doesn’t seem to trust her readers enough to know that they are capable of working things out for themselves, without having to be told. The scenes are often melodramatic, taking away from their impact and power, and characters setting out their plans reminded me of a James Bond villain revealing their evil plot while the spy is strapped to a table nearby.

There was also a lack of consistency with the characters. Robert and Frances are two fascinating characters. She is cold and calculating, having been taught how to navigate the dangerous political waters at court by her uncle, while he is naïve and relies on the strength of others, having climbed up the ladder of success by finding favour with the King. But these characters always came second to the demands of the plot, frequently changing their minds at whiplash speed without any convincing explanation.

There were also a few historical inaccuracies that bothered me. For example, would King James I, a man so convinced by the terrible powers held by witches that he wrote a book on the subject entitled Daemonologie, allow a woman to openly tell people’s futures in his court?

Despite its flaws, I still enjoyed this book. Fremantle has created an interesting and realistic portrait of life at the Jacobean court, its delights and its dangers, as well as the shifting currents of power in a marriage on the rocks. We see rival families competing for the favour of the King, where one wrong step could result in a beheading, and where someone is always willing to tear you down if it brings them closer to the top.

Reading this book is like being on an inevitable downwards slide; you can sense that something terrible is ahead, but you can’t quite make out the shape of it. The tension this creates is just brilliant.

Despite its flaws, The Poison Bed is an entertaining thriller that fans of historical fiction will no doubt enjoy.