Bloody Deeds In Post-Fire London

Christopher Fowler
The year is 1678 - twelve years after the Great Fire has left London's heart in ruins, with the city still overlooked by the severed head of Oliver Cromwell. It's a time when Titus Oates presented his wild-eyed evidence of a Popish plot, the great conspiracy to have King Charles II murdered. Catholic peers were arrested and London was on the alert for Papists lurking around every corner. Into this maelstrom of rumour and accusation strides the great
Robert Hooke, Curator of Experiments of the Royal Society, at the heart of London's rebuilding, and his assistant Harry Hunt - the names are a little too similar to be easily separated, but Hook and Hunt are historical figures so we have to live with that. They become too deeply involved in the finding of small boys, dumped by the Fleet River and drained of blood while still alive.
Mercifully this is not a vampire tale but one of newly enlightened
science, although it is only just moving out from beneath the dark shadows of the English Civil War. Resurrection and insurrection are blurred as the King himself is explosively targeted. Eyeing one of the dead boys preserved in a glass air pump he reminds us that 'The truest microcosm is the womb of a mother.' But this is where nature and science clash with belief...
It's extremely difficult to pull off a historical crime novel that manages to be accurate enough, exciting enough and smart enough to satisfy as thoroughly as 'The Bloodless Boy', but Robert J. Lloyd makes it look easy. Mix in secret codes, hidden documents, dying children, political corruption, religious hysteria and a breathless rescue on London Bridge's great waterwheel and you have a truly memorable debut, certainly one that should have been fêted more than it has been. I first read this novel on Kindle, but decided it was a keeper and bought both 'The Bloodless Boy' and its excellent sequel 'The Clockwork Assassins' (a subject close to my heart) in paperback. I was shocked to discovered that the books are (I think) self published, judging by the cover stock. I'm not surprised; I've read half a dozen superb, thoughtful historical novels which were bypassed by our purblind publishers for more commercial fare. Treat yourself to these detailed slices of richly dramatic London crime, high-born and low, and let's hope that Mr Lloyd is encouraged to produce many more.


Helen Marti (not verified) Sun, 19/07/2020 - 15:17

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Definitely sounds like one of mine.

Liz Thompson (not verified) Sun, 19/07/2020 - 16:07

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thank you. I shall.

Graeme Murdoch (not verified) Sun, 19/07/2020 - 17:43

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I read the Bloodless Boy following Admin's previous recommendation and can attest that it is a cracking read. The research is impressive but lightly worn; unlike so many historical novels it doesn't overwhelm you with indigestible downloads of facts. Equally the action sequences are breathlessly captured but remain in keeping with the overall plot.I shall definitely be getting the second book.

Jo W (not verified) Mon, 20/07/2020 - 14:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

These books sound intriguing, so another author to add to the list.

Jan (not verified) Mon, 20/07/2020 - 19:09

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Not anything much to do with the novel. Or in fact it could be as I haven 't read it .....Robert HOOKE and Isaac NEWTON were deep and bitter enemies. Very distrustful of each other + didn't respect each others work entirely. Hooke was more what we would call an applied scientist whereas Newton was on the spectrum of pure science. Aside from his contract with the English Apple Marketing board.....

I think Newton destroyed or pulled some stroke which ended up destroying Hookes portrait at the Royal Society. Funny old do really. You never think of these great men not getting on.

Hookes idea of the telescope which lies concealed within the Monument (@ the site of the start of the 1666 great fire of London) was a bit of a booboo but apart from that he did ok.

lilyami (not verified) Tue, 21/07/2020 - 06:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

*The Bloodless Boy* seems to share a theme with a very different historical novel by Iain Pears *An Instance of the Fingerpost*, which I recommend to anyone who will listen. Inter alia, a different take on the Restoration. *TBB* sounds interesting; I'll look it out.... Thank you.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Wed, 22/07/2020 - 01:32

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I wondered if Newton appears, I remember Hooke's law being taught at school so not totally obscured by Newton and is later questioning of his legacy. Boyle was around this time. I guess it would be a fascinating time of Catholic and protestant rivalry and of Alchemy and Science, interesting times.


tony williams (not verified) Tue, 28/07/2020 - 08:58

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Found them on Amazon (USA version, because that's where I live). Great books. Most of what I know about then and there is based on the works of Lisa Jardine, which exist in my storage unit(s).

I do like genre: this is good, attention to what is generally known about time and place, slightly anachronistic but that's what drives it forward.

I hope to see more

Ian Luck (not verified) Tue, 28/07/2020 - 17:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I just finished these two on your recommendation. Excellent. They gripped my imagination from the start, and didn't let go. Why they are self published, I cannot imagine - they are beautifully written, with great imagination and excellent research on a part of British history that is utterly fascinating. Many far lesser works are published by large houses, so why have these been overlooked? They remind me somewhat of Boris Akunin's 'Erast Fandorin' series - a young man dealing with problems way over his head - but 400 years ago.
Thanks for pointing these out - I'd not have known about them otherwise.

Ian Luck (not verified) Tue, 28/07/2020 - 17:26

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Robert Hooke is a fascinating character - I think that I'd like him far more than the definitely weird Sir Isaac Newton. Most of Hooke's bad press derives from Newton, who outlived him, and therefore could (and did) speak ill of the dead, and possibly (definitely, in a lot of people's minds) managed to 'lose' the only portrait of Hooke known to exist.
An episode of the revised 'Cosmos', with Neil DeGrasse Tyson is about Hooke and Newton. Animations in it never show Hooke's face, only showing his figure from the rear, or as a shadow. It makes it more than a little creepy, actually.