Snow falls as the scientist Robert Hooke and his former assistant Harry Hunt are called to a child’s body which has been found on the Fleet riverbank. The body has been drained of blood. The city of London in 1678 is febrile with anti-Catholic feeling and the shadows of the recent civil war are all around.
This is an excellent historical mystery, and much of the action takes place around where the Riverside Bookshop now is. London Bridge, Southwark, the Monument, Bishopsgate, Westminster… for anyone who knows this area well, The Bloodless Boy will take you through areas at once familiar and strange. In Whitechapel market, “Black powder from hundreds of chimneys and from the fires, braziers and stoves set up to keep the traders warm, dusted the hard, refrozen snow”.
It is like C J Sansom’s Shardlake series, combining a compelling mystery with detailed research that’s lightly worn, and featuring some real-life characters (in this case John Locke and King Charles II as well as Hooke).
It is clear that Lloyd has expertise in the history of science and the history of ideas. I knew I was going to enjoy the book when it opened with a cast list of characters including a fanatic, an assassin, and one who is both “a clergyman, and perjurer”.
Originally published in 2013 and reprinted now in a gorgeous hardback edition, The Bloodless Boy has won praise quotes from Lee Child, Andrew Taylor and Christopher Fowler among others.
A great London book and a gripping and pacy story. Recommended.