cover image The Bloodless Boy

The Bloodless Boy

Robert J. Lloyd. Melville House, $29.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-61219-939-9

Set in 1678 London, Lloyd’s stunning debut and series launch makes the complex politics of the time feel immediate while integrating them into an engrossing whodunit. Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, Justice of Peace for Westminster, tasks Harry Hunt, Observator of the Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge, and Harry’s former boss, the real-life Robert Hooke, Curator of Experiments of the Royal Society, with uncovering what led to the bloodless body of a three-year-old boy being abandoned near the Fleet River. The corpse had four puncture wounds, each with neat writing next to it. Hunt learns that another boy was found in similar circumstances a week earlier and must determine the deaths’ possible connection to the suicide of Henry Oldenburg, Secretary of the Royal Society; a rumored Catholic plot to assassinate the king; and messages employing the Red Cipher, last used during the English Civil Wars. Evocative prose, subtle characterizations, and an ingenious solution to a legendary real-life unsolved murder elevate this above most other historical mysteries. Fans of Iain Pears’s An Instance of the Fingerpost will be enthralled. Agent: Gaia Banks, Sheil Land Assoc. (U.K.) (Nov.)