The Alchemist’s Daughter

Written by Mary Lawrence

Sixteenth-century Southwark, London’s most notorious slum. Make no mistake about it: Bianca Goddard is an alchemist’s daughter, but she will fight anyone so foolish as to call her anything other than an herbalist who creates medicinals for the poor in her labyrinth stocked with tripods, flasks, and mashed frog bones. Employing vivid description, a dollop of colorful dialect, and ripe, telling details, this first entry in the Bianca Goddard series finds spunky Bianca accused of murder for “accidentally” poisoning a friend who turns to her for help when she falls ill.

As Bianca fights to prove her innocence, the plague, a constant threat, gains ground. There are some who will do anything to cover up the looming presence of rats, rats, rats – hissing, gnawing and crawling – a burgeoning threat to all in their path. A complex plot and a likable cast of characters nicely round out the story. These are common folk, with Henry VIII cast in the background (though Bianca’s infamous father has been accused of plotting the king’s death), making this a pleasant change of pace for readers who prefer all things Tudor England.