The Lost Boys of London (Bianca Goddard Mysteries)

Written by Mary Lawrence
Review by Valerie Adolph

First one small boy then another has been found hanging from the wall of a church in London. Bianca Goddard is very afraid her young friend Fisk, missing for days, might become the third. The year is 1545, and Henry VIII is on the throne, elderly now and increasingly suspicious of both the old religion he has forbidden and the new religion that is not proving as obedient to his rule as he had expected.

Bianca is missing her husband John who, with thousands of others, has been required to fight for the king against the Scots. Interspersed within Bianca’s story are glimpses of his life as a pikeman, the cruelties of the English army and John’s struggle to get home.

Meanwhile, Bianca struggles to understand the reason for the boys’ deaths in order to prevent more killings. Her investigations take her through London’s seedier areas where families struggle to make a living, burdened by taxes imposed to pay for the king’s greed and his wars. Religion is no comfort but a dividing force, with homeless monks and nuns swelling the ranks of the poor and suspicions between new sects splintering their believers. Bianca must unravel these mysteries and forces at work in her community.

This novel has plenty of action and well-drawn characters, but it is the interplay of these influences on people desperate to find food for their children that creates the depth of the plot. Lawrence’s meticulous research draws the reader deep into the complexities of the lives of Londoners, moving from the Dim Dragon Inn to Paternoster Row and old St Paul’s Cathedral.

Bianca and Fisk travel filthy streets to squalid homes—no Tudor glamour here. But if you’d like to feel the realities of life in Henry’s capital city, this novel is for you.