In The Alchemist’s Daughter, Mary Lawrence brings the world of London 1543 to dark life. It begins with the rats. Rats may have been more numerous than people in that era. As the story opens, someone is collecting the vermin for an unseemly purpose.
I chose to read this novel because the main character is similar in personality to Lucinda Martin York, the main character of my books Gold Rush Girl and Gold Rush Deluge. She’s an herbalist, she’s motherless, and she’s a strong female protagonist.
Bianca Goddard, the main character, lives a precarious existence, a 16th century equivalent of living paycheck to paycheck. She creates potions and salves to cure her customers of what ails them. One of her biggest customers runs a house of ill repute where Bianca’s best friend Jolyn was employed. Jolyn is engaged in a relationship with a well-to-do gentleman and is about to embark on a fairy tale life. The fairy tale is cut short when she dies suddenly in Bianca’s apartment. Due to the circumstances surrounding her death, Bianca becomes the prime suspect, and must solve the mystery of her friend’s death or face the gallows herself.
As the story unfolds, Bianca goes deeper into London’s underworld and discovers the secret of the rat collector. She’s accused of witchcraft, and ends up in a place no one would ever want to go. Once she escapes, she has to go back to that place again to prove her innocence and to prove what dark events are happening in the London shipyards.
This is a well-done mystery, with plenty of twists and turns. The language, customs, and events are all authentic to the time, proving the author did her research. Bianca Goddard stands out as a woman ahead of her era, pursuing herbal studies and a career, preferring to support herself rather than marry young. This novel is a perfect choice for readers who enjoy Tudor history and mysteries with a strong female protagonist.
Full disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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