by Mary Lawrence
Series: Bianca Goddard Mysteries #1
Genres: Historical, Mystery
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“A realistic evocation of 16th century London’s underside. The various strands of the plot are so skillfully plaited together.” —Fiona Buckley
In the year 1543 of King Henry VIII’s turbulent reign, the daughter of a notorious alchemist finds herself suspected of cold-blooded murder…
Bianca Goddard employs her knowledge of herbs and medicinal plants to concoct remedies for the disease-riddled poor in London’s squalid Southwark slum. But when her friend Jolyn comes to her complaining of severe stomach pains, Bianca’s prescription seems to kill her on the spot. Recovering from her shock, Bianca suspects Jolyn may have been poisoned before coming to her—but the local constable is not so easily convinced. To clear her name and keep her neck free of the gallows, Bianca must apply her knowledge of the healing arts to deduce exactly how her friend was murdered and by whom—before she herself falls victim to a similar fate…
The Alchemist’s Daughter by Mary Lawrence is the first in her new Bianca Goddard Mysteries. The tale takes place during the reign of King Henry VIII and offers a heroine who dabbles in forensics as she tries to exonerate herself from murder charges.
Bianca Goddard is a unique, quirky character who uses her knowledge of herb and medicinal plants to create remedies and sells them to the poor in the Southwark slums.
The trouble begins when Bianca’s friend Jolyn comes to her with stomach cramps. In the middle of creating tonic creams, she instructs her boyfriend to brew a tea to sooth her friend’s stomach. Upon drinking it, Jolyn convulses and dies. Did she do it? Bianca believes someone was poisoning Jolyn but the constable believes Bianca with her knowledge killed Jolyn. Bianca must determine what killed her friend and by whom.
From the dark, bleak descriptions of the slums and establishments to the RATS I am quite determined I will not be taking any trips there in the Tardis! The mystery and characters held me captive despite threats of vermin and disease. I lost myself within its pages and enjoyed the flow of the story. Mary Lawrence brought the period to life. I could smell the waste, and see the folks going about their day. Books set in the Tudor period rarely depict the lower classes and despite my queasy stomach, I enjoyed Lawrence’s attention to detail while keeping the story moving at a steady clip. I love books involving Alchemy but oh, lords do not mention that word around Bianca. She does not consider herself an alchemist but a healer.
There is a thread regarding Bianca’s father and her falling out with her family. It involved imprisonment and is mentioned throughout. I thought perhaps I had missed a book or prequel, but found none. I would have appreciated getting the full story.
The cast of characters from suspects to friends added interest. Each character was colorful and the red herrings kept me guessing. Lawrence delivered a tight plausible mystery and I enjoyed uncovering the clues and participating in Bianca’s experiments. Bianca was a combination of bumbling absent-minded professor and Nancy Drew-MacGyver. I am anxious to spend more time with this meddling sleuth.
While I wanted more details about Bianca and her family, I found The Alchemist’s Daughter to be an engaging mystery. I am looking forward to news on the next installment.