Alchemist’s Daughter: Historical Mystery

Posted April 25, 2015 by Elizabeth in book reviews/ 8 Comments

The Alchemist's Daughter by Mary Lawrence
Series: Bianca Goddard Mysteries #1
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Mystery & Detective, Women Sleuths
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation Source: NetGalley
April 28th 2015 | Pages: 304
Add to Goodreads

alchemistThe Alchemist’s Daughter by Mary Lawrence

Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation

Publication Date: April 28th 2015

Pages: 304

In the last years of King Henry VIII’s reign, Bianca Goddard is an unusual young woman. Living away from her parents and making her own living, in many ways she has been born 400 years too early. Bianca uses her knowledge of medicinal herbs from her mother and chemistry from her alchemist father to make salves, teas, and simples to sell, making herself a decent, if not rich, life. When her friend Jolyn dies during a seizure in Bianca’s home right after drinking a medicinal tea for stomach cramps, all fingers point at Banca as a poisoner. Furthering this belief, a year earlier her father had been involved in a plot to poison the King, but was exonerated during an investigation by Bianca. It was this event that caused the final rift between Bianca and her parents, leading to her setting up her own home.

Old London Bridge
Old London Bridge had shops & homes along its length.

With a cast of characters including Meddybumps, the smooth-talking salesman of the market, and John, her childhood friend and apprentice silversmith, Bianca works against time to discover who would want Joslyn dead, and discovers a plethora of shady characters including a former madame, Joslyn’s married suitor with a sketchy shipping business, and a rival for the businessman’s attentions. There is much skulking through dark alleys, visiting smoky pubs, and slogging along the muddy banks of the Thames, making a strong picture of everyday life in Southwark, just across London Bridge from the glittering life of Henry’s court.

I have read many novels of the Tudor courts, but this is the first to give a strong picture of the other side of life during this time.  Bianca’s ingenuity, single-minded focus, and attention to the details of her experiments, lead her not only into some scary and dangerous situations, but to the answer to all her questions in the end.

embleme_3I liked Bianca as a character  and person.  Although she insists on her independence and runs all over the shady sections of Southwark, she exhibits vulnerability when overwhelmed by information or horrifying sights. Bianca is also able to stop and think about the intentions of others and the other side of a situation. Her boyfriend, John, is not, and often sulks like a child, before returning to assist Bianca. He becomes jealous when she follows another man, not realizing that she is suspicious and looking for answers. There are some historical anomalies in The Alchemist’s Daughter that force the reader to suspend disbelief. For example, all of the characters can read, and not just enough to get by within their own professions. Bianca lives alone and wanders the streets alone after dark, but is never accosted except for some teasing. As a regular reader of historical fiction, I appreciated the sprinkling of old terminology and language, however, I think a glossary would be helpful for some readers. A general map of London at the time would be nice, too, although there is no way to have one specifically of Southwark. I think I say this about almost every historical fiction novel I read!11344

The Alchemist’s Daughter is the first of Mary Lawrence’s Bianca Goddard historical mysteries, so as readers we are learning the characters and setting for future novels. However, it also reads like a second or third novel, often referencing the prior situation of Bianca’s father and his involvement in the plot against the king. I would not be surprised at a future novel about that case, and I would definitely read it.

Overall, The Alchemist’s Daughter is a nice historical mystery that gives readers a chance to figure out “who-dunnit” along with Bianca, while learning about the underside of the opulent Tudor life of historical record.

I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

ABOUT MARY LAWRENCE – From goodreads.

mary1Originally from Evansville, Indiana, Mary attended Butler and Indiana University,moving to Maine after completing a degree in cytotechnology. She has worked in hospitals and labs and written indexes for several small publishers. Recently she started a berry farm in southern Maine with her husband. She is an avid reader of historical fiction and nonfiction and concentrates on Tudor/Elizabethan history.

In 2010, she was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Contest, and won the Celtic Heart’s Golden Claddagh in historical fiction. She was also a finalist in the Gotham Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest in 2010.

Mary continues to work in cytology in a hospital north of Boston, and adores time with her grandchildren.

I received The Alchemist’s Daughter from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.


8 responses to “Alchemist’s Daughter: Historical Mystery

  1. That cover is splendid ! And the blurb attractive, I’m happy to see that this historical is not about noble people for once. I enjoyed that you used these old pictures to illustrate your post, there are still a few “inhabited” bridges like that in Europe as far as I know, I’ve seen the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and the Pont Rohan in Brittany (here : I added this book to my list, thanks 🙂

Leave a Reply