To the Fair Land by Lucienne Boyce – a book, a mysterious author and dangerous surprises in this fast paced historical novel.

To The Fair Land by Lucienne Boyce

A historical novel that shows the excitement of selling a book that everyone wants a copy of in the late 1700s was always going to grab my attention, and this book certainly did right from the beginning. There are various reasons that people are desperate to get their hands on this book, the fantastic illustrations, the poetic writing, the mysterious author that no one can identify, but mainly because it describes a magical country of people so very different from the British, with fantastic natural resources. This is an age of European countries trying to grab new space, new colonies, and the promise of a spacious previously undiscovered island and potentially more at the edge of the world cannot be ignored. Ben Dearlove is a struggling writer given an opportunity to make his fortune in London, who soon realizes that this book could change his life, if he can only find the author and obtain the publishing of a second volume for his friend Mr Dowling. While he feels that he may have a few extra clues to help in his search, he has no idea that tracking down the truth will be fraught with so many dangers and challenges.

This is a well-paced novel which has some marvelous set pieces, as not only Ben’s quest is recalled but also stories of families and voyages that shock and surprise. Boyce brings in some fascinating characters that reveal their stories in great detail, against a background of secrecy and danger. The research is so impressive in the details as well as the narrative as a whole, but it never slows the action down. This is a well written book which I greatly enjoyed, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

The book actually opens with a performance representing “ The Life and Death of Captain Cook”. While Ben and the rest of the audience finds it fascinating, his neighbour, a young woman, keeps muttering about it in a negative way, calling Captain Cook’s discoveries “A fool’s discoveries”. The rest of the audience, much affected by the play and the tragic death of the hero, attack the strange woman. Ben saves her and sees her home, only to spot one or two interesting aspects of her life. When Dowling is overwhelmed by demand for “An Account of a Voyage to the Fair Land” “Who would have thought that book lovers could be so warlike?”, Ben realizes that there may be clues as to the much sought after author’s identity, and determines to track them down, despite his friend Campbell’s doubts. When this seems to involve journeys and real risk, even Ben begins to wonder why he is being followed by two men, and how it will affect those around him.

This is a novel that manages to maintain suspense to the end, as well as surprising the reader with some unexpected twists. For a relatively short novel it includes many twists and turns that took me by surprise, as well as some lyrical passages of descriptions of a different way of life. The author conveys the harsh realities of life on board ship, as well as the political interest in a different land. I would thoroughly recommend this book as being full of historical mysteries, fascinating characters and peril. It is not a long read, but packs in so much as Ben tries to establish the reality behind a popular book at the risk of so much.   

Death Makes No Distinction by Lucienne Boyce – an historical detection novel with an engaging hero


Dan Foster is a senior Bow Street Runner, one of the first policemen in London. This is the third book in the series of Mysteries, but it can certainly be appreciated as a standalone book, which is how I read it. Prince George is an actual character in this book, as is Foster’s family.  Set in Georgian times, in this book London is a place of shadowy corners, rich and poor, thieves, cutthroats and others trying to scratch a living. It is in this part of the city that the first body is found, unnamed and apparently unmourned. Another body is found in the exact opposite situation; the murdered Louise Parmeter, an old favourite of the Prince and now a beautiful woman of independence and many talents. For better or worse, Dan becomes involved in both investigations, the second at the instigation of John Townshend, royal bodyguard, for initially mysterious reasons.  As the situations Dan finds himself becoming more embroiled in get more complex, he must decide where his priorities lie. I found this a fascinating and interesting portrayal of a man endeavouring to do his best, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.


The range of characters that Dan encounters in his work is huge, and reflect the immense research that has evidently gone into this book. He encounters the poorest people who have few options, despite their youth. Women who must make their living on the streets, children who must steal to survive, men who fight for the survival of themselves and others. There are those who have more advantages, but who choose dissolute lives. Louise Parmeter obviously has her secrets as she can choose who she supports and the way she spends her notable wealth, and her beauty and talents have attracted many men. The violence of her death appals her loyal staff, and raises many possibilities in Dan’s mind, but it seems that he has been called in to assist with the case for other reasons. As elements of Dan’s background story emerge they serve to explain some of his skills and motivations. His son Alex is much loved but also a reason for contention with his wife Caroline, and his family relationships are evidently complex. His own background has equipped him with many skills and an awareness of how the underworld of London works, but even then his survival is not straightforward.


This is such a well researched book that the setting of both the richest and poorest in society is made vibrant and alive. The language used is both revealing of the time and completely within character whether spoken by a rich lord or a poor man scraping a living by dubious means. There is at the heart of the novel a sufficiently complex crime or two to engage the most sophisticated detection fans. I found the character of Dan really attractive, as he thinks through his motivations and reactions.He is skilled and able, but knows that he makes mistakes and is also not always the most popular with his superiors. As a fan of historical crime novels I would say that this is certainly a very good example of a skillfully constructed and well  researched book. Dan is a very engaging character and I would be very interested to read the other books in which he features. I recommend this book as a thoroughly engaging historical novel with many elements to enjoy.