London, December 1543, the final years of the reign of Henry VIII. The newly married Bianca Goddard, a practising alchemist, and her husband John are relocating, due to the good fortune of their friend, Boisvert, but that good fortune isn’t going to last for long. A pregnant woman is seen in a troubled state at St Vedast’s church and leaps to her death from the bell tower.
When Boisvert’s new wife drops dead on the night of the the wedding, poisoned, Bianca finds herself investigating the murder. Is it linked to the other death – or the other deaths to come?
Death At St Vedast’s is the third book to feature Bianca Goddard, but the first one that I’ve come across. It was sent to me by the author, as it’s out to buy on the 27th December. Never quite understood why anyone would release a book directly after Christmas? Maybe to catch the book token market? I’m sure there’s a good marketing reason.
Anyway, back to the book in question. There’s a lot of potential here in the notion of the lead character being an alchemist, although there’s not a vast amount of alchemy here. Instead she demonstrates her knowledge of chemicals and poisons in an attempt to find the source of the poison and whether it was delivered deliberately or not.
Mary Lawrence does a good job of creating this small part of London and its characters. Looking as small aspects of life such as the church or milling flour, the tale builds gradually to its climax.
For me, it built a little too slowly, as it’s not until the method of murder is revealed that you really get a feel of who could be the murderer – as I’ve mentioned before, I do find my favourite mysteries have their problem laid out nice and early. But this is an interesting tale – something different in the historical genre – and, if you can overlook a misquote from Hamlet appearing about sixty years too early (unless I’m missing something), it’s Well Worth A Look.