Death at St. Vedast: A Bianca Goddard Mystery

Written by Mary Lawrence
Review by Cynthia Slocum

The latest Bianca Goddard mystery begins with a startling discovery: the corpse of a pregnant woman who fell from the bell tower of St. Vedast Church. Before moving her crates of alchemy supplies and herbal remedies into her new residence, Bianca hastens to examine the body. A rhyme the woman was heard reciting may offer the only other clues. Within days, the wealthy French widow Odile, who has just married a master silversmith named Boisvert, collapses and dies during their wedding reception. Boisvert is summarily imprisoned for her murder and faces almost certain death, although no evidence supports the charge against him.

John, Bianca’s husband, an apprentice of the accused, desperately wants to save the master silversmith’s life. Not allowed to pursue her usual alchemical experiments while they live in a house Boisvert owns, Bianca turns her knowledge of disease symptoms and her sharp, rational mind to discovering what ailment caused the bride’s strange demise and whether or not it was murder. Several characters have a past connection to Odile and might have been driven by greed or passion to kill. Together, Bianca and John determine the motivations of these potential culprits in 1540s London and journey to an unfamiliar country town to investigate the origin of a similar fatal malady that struck there.

This book’s complex plot unfolds during the reign of Henry VIII against such relevant backdrops as a plundered, declining Catholic parish church, a disbanded monastery, and the machinations of powerful guilds vying for preeminence. Realistic historical details and dialogue bring the setting to life.