Death of an Alchemist

Mary Lawrence. Kensington, $15 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-61773-712-1
Colorful alchemical lore and a vividly imagined 1543 London enrich Lawrence’s engaging if imperfectly plotted sequel to 2015’s The Alchemist’s Daughter. When “chemiste” Bianca Goddard, who’s estranged from her alchemist father, needs help with processing the salves and medicinals she sells, she turns to venerable alchemist Ferris Stannum. On the day that Stannum announces a new discovery—an “elixir of immortality” that will save others and make him rich—she meets physician Barnabas Hughes, shady alchemist Thomas Plumbum, and moneylender Joseph Tait, all of whom see an opportunity in the formula. The next day, Stannum is dead and the notebook holding the formula missing. Though Hughes pronounces it natural, Bianca’s curiosity about Stannum’s sudden demise intensifies once his landlady and then his daughter die, the notebook reappears at her home, and she herself is attacked. Lawrence excels at exploring themes—parent-child conflict, dreams of eternal life, and the limitations of medicine—that have period and present-day resonance. Agent: Fred Tribuzzo, Rudy Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/14/2015
Release date: 01/26/2016
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