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SusannaG

SusannaG - Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady

Just another GR refugee.  Other than that, I had a stroke in 2004, and read almost anything I can get my hands on, though I have a particular weakness for history, mystery, and historical fiction.

Currently reading

A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael
Ellis Peters
The Hanover Square Affair
Ashley Gardner
Progress: 10 %
Medieval Tastes: Food, Cooking, and the Table (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History)
Beth Archer Brombert, Massimo Montanari
Progress: 10 %
Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth
Holger Hoock
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari Dr
Progress: 9 %
Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years
John Guy
Progress: 20/512 pages
Lady Cop Makes Trouble
Amy Stewart
The Hundred Years War, Volume 1: Trial by Battle
Jonathan Sumption
Progress: 166/586 pages
King Solomon's Mines
H. Rider Haggard
Progress: 4 %
Queen's Gambit: A Novel
Elizabeth Fremantle
Progress: 22 %

The Alchemist's Daughter

The Alchemist's Daughter - Mary Lawrence

This historical mystery (the first in a planned series, I believe), is set in 1543 England, mostly in Shoreditch, but also in London, immediately across the Thames River.

 

Bianca Goddard, the daughter of an alchemist (from whom she is estranged), keeps a hut in Shoreditch for the purposes of brewing up potions and salves, which a peddler friend sells on the streets and in the markets.  (Big sellers are rat poison and purgatives.)  Her best friend, Jolyn, dies in her shop, drinking Bianca's tea*, and the local constable, Patch, is determined to haul her in for murder.  So Bianca determines to find the real murderer to save her own skin.

 

This is not a cosy, but a "warts and all" historical, and since it's set in Shoreditch, the Tudor home of all that's bawdy, that includes whores, madams, cutpurses, footpads, disreputable inns, bear-baiting, and torture, among other things.

 

My problem with it was that I believe I found one historical oops (a reference to theaters, which wouldn't exist until the 1570s; plays were performed in the courtyards of inns in this period), and mostly that I found the narrator, Bianca, an unsympathetic and unlikeable character.  I didn't really care what happened to her.  I didn't care about her boyfriend (she didn't much, either, unless it was convenient to her), the journeyman silversmith.  I didn't care about her father, the alchemist - because we hear things about both parents, but never meet either of them!  I don't think I will read the next volume in the series.

 

*It becomes clear eventually that this is an herbal tea, mint or fennel, but that is not apparent at the start, and I was originally concerned that the author was under the impression that there was what we call "tea" available in Tudor England.  There wasn't, just for the record.  Tea will be introduced to England a good century after the setting of this book.  And it will be a status drink until well into the 1700s.

 

My ARC courtesy of Kensington Books/Net Galley - much thanks!