The Alchemist of Lost Souls
Bianca Goddard Mysteries, by Mary Lawrence
While her husband fights the Scots on behalf of King Henry VIII, Bianca Goddard earns her coin by concocting medicines that offer relief to London’s sick. Some unfortunates, however, are beyond any remedies she can provide–like the young boy discovered hanging from a church dripstone. Examining the body, Bianca finds a rosary twined around the child’s neck. A week later, another boy is found dead at a different church. When Fisk, Bianca’s impish acquaintance goes missing, she fears he may become the third victim…
There are many scoundrels who would prey on wayward, penniless boys. But Bianca suspects the killings are not brutal acts of impulse but something far more calculated.
In her room of Medicinals and Physickes, she examines the sole piece of evidence: a sweet-smelling, stained cloth. If Bianca can unravel its secret, reputations and lives will be saved. The expected hour of the next murder is approaching, and a single misstep may mean another boy is lost forever…
This latest book in Mary Lawrence’s Bianca Goddard mysteries delivers a good read and escape into the gray streets of Tudor England. The main character, Bianca Goddard, is a believable protagonist, and with each book, she grows in complexity and strength. You’ll enjoy the rich atmosphere of the time: market street characters, constables and vendors, flavorful dialogue, winding alleys, impressive architecture, and the portrayal of social classes. You’ll soon be deep into the investigation of a little boy’s death that sends Bianca into dangerous territory. Fisk is a delightful character, and the opening of the story takes you on a breathtaking chase, hopeful and delighted at his cleverness and pluck. My favorite is the continued information on herbs and home remedies. The reader is also treated to scenes in Scotland where her husband, John, is fighting on the battlefield. As tensions increase, it’s clear life will not be the same for John and Bianca after he returns home. Although this is book five, it can stand alone. But do go back to book one and enjoy the growth of Bianca. This is a good story with an intriguing and solid plot, engaging escalation of trouble for Bianca, and plenty of murder and suspicion to take you away from a week of stress.
A dangerous element discovered by Bianca Goddard’s father falls into the wrong hands, leading to a chain of multiple murders.
Spring 1544: Now that she is with child, Bianca is more determined than ever to distance herself from her unstable father. Desperate to win back the favor of King Henry VIII, disgraced alchemist Albern Goddard plans to reveal a powerful new element he’s discovered–one with deadly potential. But when the substance is stolen, he is panicked and expects his daughter to help.
Soon after, a woman’s body is found behind the Dim Dragon Inn, an eerie green vapor rising from her breathless mouth. To her grave concern, Bianca has reason to suspect her own mother may be involved in the theft and the murder. As her husband John is conscripted into King Henry’s army to subdue Scottish resistance, Bianca must navigate a twisted and treacherous path among alchemists, apothecaries, chandlers, and scoundrels–to find out who among them is willing to kill to possess the element known as lapis mortem, the stone of death . . .
I like this protagonist. Even with the historical setting, she is relatable while accurate to the times. The relationships with her husband, her mother and father, and various city inhabitants are intriguing and lead me to question which soul is more lost? The portrayal of London’s citizens is captivating, and scenes with the Rat Man are engrossing. I did want a deeper insight to and connection with Bianca’s emotions, turmoil, and passions. I loved the herbalism and alchemy details. The period sounds, setting, and sensory details were delivered so well that I’m sure I smelled a few things along the street and river. You will enjoy this book, settled in with a strong cup of English Breakfast tea.
About the Author
Mary Lawrence lives and farms in Maine and worked in the medical field for over twenty-five years before publishing her debut mystery, The Alchemist’s Daughter (Kensington, 2015). The book was named by Suspense Magazine as a “Best Book of 2015” in the historical mystery category. Her articles have appeared in several publications most notably the national news blog, The Daily Beast. The Bianca Goddard Mystery series also includes Death of an Alchemist, Death at St. Vedast, The Alchemist of Lost Souls, and the fifth title for 2020.