Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Review: The Lost Boys of London by Mary Lawrence

The Lost Boys of London (Bianca Goddard Mysteries, Book #5)
by Mary Lawrence
Release Date: April 28th 2020
2020 Red Puddle Print
ARC Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-1734736106
ASIN: B085F222LW
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from author

4 / 5 Stars

While her husband fights the Scots on behalf of King Henry VIII, Bianca Goddard earns her coin by concocting medicines that offer relief to London's sick. Some unfortunates, however, are beyond any remedies she can provide—like the young boy discovered hanging from a church dripstone. Examining the body, Bianca finds a rosary twined around the child's neck. A week later, another boy is found dead at a different church. When Bianca's impish acquaintance, Fisk, goes missing, she fears he may become the third victim...

There are many villains who would prey on wayward, penniless boys. But Bianca suspects the killings are not brutal acts of impulse, but something far more calculated. In her room of Medicinals and Physickes, she examines the sole piece of evidence: a sweet-smelling, stained cloth. If Bianca can unravel its secret, reputations and lives will be saved. The expected hour of the next murder is approaching, and a single misstep may mean another boy is lost forever...

My Thoughts
The Lost Boys of London is the fifth book in the Bianca Goddard Mysteries and seems to pick up right where the previous book ended, with Bianca in London creating her concoctions and selling them on the streets of London through her friend, Meddybemps (I had trouble wrapping my head around that name and just started calling him Meddy), while her husband, John, was off somewhere in Scotland, having been conscripted to join King Henry VIII's army.  Being very familiar with those Scottish battles, I was very curious as to how the author was going to include them into the story, but she managed to fit John's story rather nicely into Bianca's although really, John's story really had nothing to do with the plot.  It was just a nice little extra we got as readers to show how unstable King Henry VIII's reign really was towards the end.  

The author herself mentions that she doesn't have a background in history but she certainly does a fantastic job of bringing sixteenth century London to life.  With events happening around February 1545, the  monasteries and abbeys have been destroyed for several years now, and this book explores the aftermath of that destruction and the consequences it had on the Church as well as on its people.  Henry VIII was a bit flighty when it came to religion, serving his own needs, which made his people somewhat leery of their own ecclesiastical needs as popular opinion could change at a moment's notice, something that could be deadly during this time period.  I really liked how the author showed the different factions in the churches with priests trying to gain approval over each other in order to gain back some of the material comforts they lost when Cromwell destroyed the monasteries all those years ago.  

While I have not yet read previous instalments of these books, I had no trouble following along or picking up the story.  I really enjoyed Bianca as a character and will probably read the previous books to learn more about her.  For a 16th century woman, she is quite independent, creating Medicinals and Physickes that could likely see her being burned at the stake if she is not careful.  Having grown up on the streets, she definitely understands the life these young boys face, so when a young boy is discovered hanging from a church, it is understandable that the Inspector (Patch) would ask for her help.  Through her search for the murderer, the reader gets to see another side of London that is quite different from wealthy one we often see in historical fiction and I rather like seeing the other side.  Her book reminds me a bit of the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir books by Jeri Westerson which are also known for their atmospheric settings.  

The plot was interesting, even if there were quite a few sub-plots that really had nothing to do with the mystery, but the writing is compelling and draws you into a world, while fascinating, makes you fervently glad you live in this time period.  And while I was intrigued by the mystery, there was still this small part of me that was surprised that anyone would listen to Bianca in such a male-dominated world.  And because Bianca is part of the world she is investigation, it gives her an authenticity that would be lacking otherwise. Plus, it was easy to commiserate with her on those nights when she drowned her sorrows at the local pub with friends who were also missing their loved ones in the war.  I was easily able to empathize with her and her friends.  

The Lost Boys of London was a well-written and entertaining novel, even if I thought Bianca's life kind of overshadowed the mystery.  It all blended together so seamlessly and flowed so nicely that I enjoyed all the descriptions and just immersed myself in the journey.  And while the author was able to mesh John's story line quite well into the story, I just didn't think it was necessary.  I get what she was trying to do, but I would have been just as happy having him show up on Bianca's doorway either way.  And John could have had his own story.  Anyhow, I was a little sad to learn this would be the last book in this series, but I am definitely looking forward to seeing what else the author will be doing with this time period as she has clearly stated this time period is not done with her.  


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