#BlogTour- Robert J. Lloyd- The Bloodless Boy- Extract @robjlloyd @melvillehouse

The City of London, 1678. New Year’s Day. Twelve years have passed since the Great Fire ripped through the City. Eighteen since the fall of Oliver Cromwell and the restoration of a King. London is gripped by hysteria, and rumors of Catholic plots and sinister foreign assassins abound. When the body of a young boy drained of his blood is discovered on the snowy bank of the Fleet River, Robert Hooke, the Curator of Experiments at the just-formed Royal Society for Improving Natural Knowledge, and his assistant Harry Hunt, are called in to explain such a ghastly finding—and whether it’s part of a plot against the king. They soon learn it is not the first bloodless boy to have been discovered. Meanwhile, that same morning Henry Oldenburg, the Secretary of the Royal Society, blows his brains out, and a disgraced Earl is released from the Tower of London, bent on revenge against the King, Charles II. Wary of the political hornet’s nest they are walking into – and using scientific evidence rather than paranoia in their pursuit of truth – Hooke and Hunt must discover why the boy was murdered, and why his blood was taken.

If you love a dense and sweeping slice of historical fiction, look no further than The Bloodless Boy from Robert J. Lloyd. Teeming with atmosphere, and packed full of precise and razor sharp historical detail, this book roams freely between fiction and faction, enveloping the reader in the world of 17th century London- a time of conspiracy, superstition and religious persecution, but also alive with breakthrough discoveries and the world of science moving on apace.  Enjoy the extract below and allow your curiosity to be piqued…

 

IT WAS LATE AFTERNOON BY THE time Sir Edmund arrived at Gresham’s. The boy, he saw, was arranged like an exhibit. A curio displayed for a penny a show.
‘Spake I not unto you, saying, do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? Therefore, behold, also his blood is required.’ The Justice’s voice rumbled around the walls of the cellar room. ‘I have seen many murders. Whether done hotly or coldly, mostly the method is unimaginative. Either by use of the hand, or some tool. To drain all the blood away is to consider more closely the way of killing.’
The boy’s eyes were extraordinary. A rich blue colour—closer to indigo. He turned away from them to look at the two men with him in the cellar.
‘This globe will not allow the air to re-enter?’
‘It will not,’ Hooke replied tetchily, taking the question as a slight. ‘We shall maintain the vacuum, to prevent putrefaction.’
‘It fits him perfectly.’
‘There are limitations to the size of a glass receiver we can make,’ Hooke said. ‘This is the largest we have manufactured. Grander attempts cracked or imploded.’
Harry pointed through the glass at the top of the boy’s legs. ‘The holes made after death, if done on these dates written by them, show he was preserved. As we preserve him now.’
‘This we surmised at the Fleet.’ The Justice’s bottom lip still twitched.
‘When squeezing the boy into this receiver,’ Harry continued, starting to measure mentally the frequency of the twitch, ‘I wondered if we returned him from another receiver. One of the same size. One also made of glass.’
Hooke made a tutting noise and sounded peevish. ‘He could have been stored in a chamber far larger, one not made of glass. I had myself placed in a box of tin when working with Mr. Boyle, and its air was taken out. It clouded my mind and made me sick, so I banged against its lid. He released me from it.’
‘But when all air was taken out, the box crumpled,’ Harry argued. ‘It could never have been used to preserve bodies.’
‘A stronger box could. That this boy fits the receiver is fortuitous.’
‘A suggestion, only, Mr. Hooke,’ Harry said. Affronted by Hooke’s tone, and in front of the Justice, he could feel the colour rising in his cheeks. ‘I felt—’
‘—You rely too much on your feelings,’ Hooke snapped. ‘A fault I have noted before.’
Ignoring Hooke, Sir Edmund allowed the possibility. ‘The use of glass suggests the need for observation. Otherwise, materials less transparent, and more robust, would be employed.’
‘The building of an air-pump requires substantial investment, and no little skill,’ Hooke said, ‘whether the receiver is glass, or no.’
‘Who would sponsor such a philosophical murder?’ Sir Edmund asked. ‘And why their need for blood?’
Despite his flinty stare at each of them, the Justice got no reply. He turned back to the boy. ‘There are other ways of preservation.’
‘There are no signs of him being held in liquid, nor of being frozen,’ Harry said. ‘He was kept in a vacuum.’
Sir Edmund made indecisive, faltering shakes of his head, from side to side. ‘I must put off the further study of him. For I am called away.’
‘We shall wait on you,’ Hooke replied, still bad-tempered, and thinking of President Brouncker’s direction.
‘This door has a strong lock?’ ‘And the other doors also,’ Hooke said.
Sir Edmund strode from the room, up the short flight of steps, to inspect the ward and sturdy strap hinges of the iron-clad door sealing off the passage. At last, he seemed satisfied.
Diligently, they locked the air-pump room’s door behind them, and then the stronger door. It clanged shut: the impact of iron and oak, a shudder of the frame.
Left in the receiver, the boy stared into blackness.
###
THEY STOOD TOGETHER in the quadrangle. Soon it would be dusk. The light bled through rips in the cloud, picking up its colour from the thick atmosphere. Oranges and golds tinted the snow-covered rooftops.
Sir Edmund pulled at his lip. ‘Mr. Hunt, I have business with Mr. Hooke. I prefer you kept from it until he has considered more upon the matter.’
Still smarting from Hooke’s chastisement in the cellar, Harry bid a stiff goodbye to both men. He headed off for his lodgings at Half Moon Alley, in Bishopsgate Without.
Hooke, knowing his walk, recognised his hurt.
The Justice was indifferent to the younger man’s feelings. ‘There was another such a finding. Another such a boy.’
Hooke looked pointedly at him. He had warned Harry they risked be- ing pulled into deep waters. ‘Also drained of his blood?’
‘Likewise, it was taken.’ ‘When was he found, Sir Edmund?’ ‘One week ago. On Christmas Day.’ ‘Left at the Fleet River, also?’ ‘Out east, at Barking Creek, beyond the Woolwich Docks.’ ‘Have you preserved this first boy, as you require the second?’ ‘He is pickled, at your new College of Physicians.’
Sir Edmund produced two letters from inside his notebook and passed them over. ‘I leave these with you.’
Hooke, looking pained, took them from him. ‘Keep these securely,’ Sir Edmund instructed. ‘The first is a note I have written to you. The second is my copy of the document left with the Fleet boy. It was this endeavour I engaged myself upon today. Why I am here so late.’
Hooke blanched. ‘What does it say of the boy?’ ‘Read these, then consider whether you will help me.’ ‘Does it tell of the taking of his blood?’ ‘Read them, please. Good evening to you, Mr. Hooke.’
That man’s twitch is getting worse, Hooke thought, watching the Justice go. In his orbicularis oris.

________________________________________________

Praise for The Bloodless Boy

Wonderfully imagined and wonderfully written, this is an impeccable historical mystery, and also a timely and timeless parable about working inside a paranoid and repressive society. Superb!

Lee Child

THE BLOODLESS BOY is an extraordinary achievement–an almost hallucinatory depiction of 17th century London swimming in political intrigue and the voracious curiosity of early modern scientists. Rarely does fiction feel so much like time travel.

–Joseph Finder, New York Times bestselling author of Paranoia, House on Fire and Judgment

A fantastic historical mystery set in an utterly fascinating milieu. I really enjoyed this one.”

Adrian McKinty, New York Times bestselling author of The Chain

‘Absolutely gripping. A wonderfully researched and thrilling ride through one of London’s most fascinating epochs.’

Cate Quinn, author of Black Widows

‘The Bloodless Boy is a gripping and beautifully written history-mystery which brims with atmosphere and menace.’

–Martin Edwards, Edgar Award-winning author of The Golden Age of Murder and The Gallows Court

“Lloyd fuses an infectious love of language and history with spectacular action, an irresistible young hero, and an ingenious mystery. What a delightfully erudite, impeccably well-crafted novel.”

–Dan Mayland, author of The Doctor of Aleppo

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. 

–Christopher Fowler, author of the Bryant and May mysteries.

________________________________________________________________

Robert Lloyd, the son of parents who worked in the British Foreign Office, grew up in South London, Innsbruck, and Kinshasa. He studied for a Fine Art degree, starting as a landscape painter, but it was while studying for his MA degree in The History of Ideas that he first read Robert Hooke’s diary, detailing the life and experiments of this extraordinary man. After a 20-year career as a secondary school teacher, he has now returned to painting and writing. The Bloodless Boy is his debut novel. He is at work on a sequel. Follow on Twitter @robjlloyd. 

 

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