I enjoy a good historical mystery where you can tell the author has at least one foot in that era. Such a mystery is “Death at St. Vedast” by Mary Lawrence. Lawrence proved in her first “A Bianca Goddard Mystery,” “The Alchemist’s Daughter,” that she had thoroughly researched the social, economic, political and cultural history of England at the time of Henry VIII. “Death at St. Vedast” is an inventive continuation of alchemist, healer and amateur sleuth, Bianca Goddard’s story.
This new story is set in 1543 in London and in a small village outside London called Dinmow. Bianca and her husband, John, have rented John’s master’s house when the Silversmith, Boisvert, prepares to move to the home of his bride, Odile Farendon, a wealthy widow of a Goldsmith. Several suspicious deaths occur in and around St. Vedast, the church where Odile and Boisvert are to be married. The deaths could be signs of poisoning, bewitching, or both. Boisvert and the priest who marries the couple, Father Nelson, are both accused. Similar strange deaths occur in the village of Dinmow, the place where the flour used to make communion wafers and a pax bread given to the bride before her marriage. Bianca observes a number of suspicious happenings between members of the Goldsmiths Guild, the White and Brown Bread Bakers Guilds, an attorney, the warden at St. Vedast, and others, that cause her to suspect people are being framed to protect those who are really guilty. She and John need to take a trip to Dinmow to investigate and start to unlock what really happened.
Lawrence carefully explains in an afterword where she has changed some details to fit the storyline, primarily in where she locates some of the guildhalls. It is clear that she has a very good grasp of what life in Tudor England was really like. There are plenty of colorful descriptions, interesting plots, exciting action and authentic dialogue to make “Death at St. Vedast” a page-turner for all who appreciate fiction set in early Renaissance England.
Reviewed from a supplied advance edition. This book is now available from Kensington Books.