Death of an Alchemist by Mary Lawrence

Death of an Alchemist
Mary Lawrence

Kensington Books

Bianca Goddard, daughter of an alchemist, puts her talents to good use producing medicines and remedies for the sick and hurt of London.

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“. . . enjoyable historic crime fiction with a solid foundation in fact.”

In the closing years of King Henry VIII’s reign there’s no shortage of either in the slums of the great city. Disease can carry a person off within a matter of hours when one of the frequent epidemics stalks the streets. Bianca hears famous alchemist Ferris Stannum has made a breakthrough in creating the fabled elixir of life, a potion that confers immortality upon the imbiber. She calls upon Stannum seeking to learn something to enhance her own work. Stannum takes a shine to the young woman and is prepared to help –- but then dies in odd circumstances.

Convinced her mentor’s death was murder, Bianca sets out to uncover the perpetrator. Could his killer be a rival seeking to use Stannum’s wondrous discovery for his own gain or the people he owed large sums of money to? There are plenty of suspects and plenty of fresh bodies piling up as Bianca ventures deeper into the web of deceit and misdirection surrounding the alchemist’s death. With her husband ailing from what appears to be a deadly disease, Bianca must rely upon her wits and her stalwart friend, Meddybemps the peddler, to see her through. 

In Death of an Alchemist, Mary Lawrence brings the world of Tudor London to life with all its grime, smells and moral ambiguity. Her heroine Bianca Goddard is flawed and all the more likable for it. Death of an Alchemist is enjoyable historic crime fiction with a solid foundation in fact.

Reviewer: Cindy A. Matthews