In 1983, Dinah Lampitt was approached by Canada Dry, the drinks manufacturers, to research the origins of H.D. Rawlings and Co, makers of tonic and soda waters, now bought up by Canada Dry and part of their empire.
Canada Dry were expecting a challenge from Schweppes (founded in 1783) that they - Schweppes - were an older company than Rawlings, who claimed to have been in business since the mid eighteenth century.
Dinah was given two weeks to solve the case and the only clue she had available was some Victorian correspondence from H.D. Rawlings, giving the address 2, Nassau Street, Soho, and claiming to have been at those premises for over a hundred years.
Armed with this scant piece of information, Dinah set forth and eventually tracked down a John Rawlings, Apothecary, by going through the records of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, held in the Guildhall. Wondering whether this could be her man - for Jacob Schweppe, who discovered the secret of carbonating water in Switzerland in 1783, was also an apothecary - Dinah needed a conclusive piece of evidence to link John Rawlings to the Victorian firm of H.D. Rawlings.
Read her own account of the hunt for the true John Rawlings
Very well received by the critics and given a stunning review by the celebrated Lindsey Davis, Deryn Lake has now published her twelfth John Rawlings book and hopes to continue with him and also with historical novels written in tandem.
Back-in-Print Books Ltd have now reissued the original John Rawlings mysteries, so that it is once again possible to read the entire sequence from the start. Deryn Lake says "Please don't let the bookseller tell you that they are out of print: they are printed on demand, and are quite definitely still available."
The books are listed below, in order of publication.
Introducing John Rawlings, a young man newly out of his apprenticeship. Having finished his indentures, Rawlings is celebrating at Vaux Hall Pleasure Gardens when he trips over the body of a young girl.
Summoned to the magistrate's office as prime suspect, Rawlings not only clears his own name but impresses the blind magistrate, John Fielding so much with his powers of recollection that he is asked to investigate the crime.
From gaming hell to fashionable house, Rawlings follows a trail of lustful liaisons and illicit intrigue which prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the girl has quite a past - a past filled with threatening secrets.
Death in the Dark Walk was originally published in 1994; the Back-in-Print edition was published in 2002:
This evocative Georgian mystery features the return of John Rawlings, the apothecary with a talent for detective work, and John Fielding, the phenomenal blind magistrate whose Runners formed London's early police force.
John Rawlings is among the beau monde enjoying a performance of The Beggar's Opera in Drury Lane when the leading actor - the notorious philanderer Jasper Harcross - dramatically falls to his death on stage.
As Rawlings and the Blind Beak hunt for vital clues, they discover a hotbed of rivalry both on and off the stage which produces numerous suspects and questions. As the search takes on a new intensity, John Rawlings soon finds himself on an intriguing trail of obsession that leads to the dark heart of a cold-blooded murder.
Death at the Beggars Opera was originally published in 1995; the Back-in-Print edition was published in 2000:
John Rawlings, the exuberant young apothecary, is celebrating in The Devil's Tavern, a popular if notorious haunt for sailors and smugglers. Stumbling across a corpse that has been fished out of the Thames, he identifies it as Sir William Hartfield, the bridegroom who had failed to show at his own wedding earlier that day.
As the drowning reveals itself as murder, Rawlings is called upon by London's revered sightless magistrate, John Fielding, to investigate the colourful members of Sir William's family - from terrible old Lady Hodkin to her downtrodden daughter, and from Roger, flamboyant man of fashion to the outrageous twins who share an elaborate past.
Death at the Devil's Tavern was originally published in 1996; the Back-in-Print edition was published in 2000:
Summoned to attend a patient in a house near the lonely Romney Marsh, Rawlings does not suspect that he is walking into a web of conspiracy, intrigue and mystery. Until he discovers a body near a deserted church, bearing a coded document.
Rawlings reports the case to London's famous blind magistrate John Fielding who identifies the victim as a French spy master. So Rawlings returns to the marshes to investigate who, amongst the colourful local characters, could be harbouring politically explosive secrets...
Death on the Romney Marsh was originally published in 1998; the Back-in-Print edition was published in 2000:
John Rawlings, London's most colourful apothecary and occasional sleuth, is relaxing at the popular swimming baths, the Peerless Pool, when his peace is shattered by the alarming discovery of a drowned woman.
The victim is identified as Hannah Rankin, an assistant at the nearby St Luke's asylum for the insane.
Assigned to the case by John Fielding, London's famous blind magistrate, Rawlings doesn't realise that he is scratching the surface of something far more complex than an isolated murder. At St Luke's Rawlings discovers a vital clue to Hannah's hidden past which leads to a strange case concerning a child's mysterious disappearance. Was Hannah involved? And why do his investigations lead him again and again to a house of sinister secrets in Bath?
Death in the Peerless Pool was originally published in 1999; the Back-in-Print edition was published in 2002:
The scene was an exact replica of the one that had taken place twenty-four hours earlier. John Rawlings stood in the shop at Apothecaries' Hall buying the herb known as true-love. The only difference was that both he and the shop owner were buzzing with intrigue as they discussed the extraordinary outbreak of food poisoning which had stricken the liverymen who attended dinner at the Worshipful Society the previous day. And how Liveryman Alleyn might have died had John not given him the remedy of true-love.
Except the following day Liveryman Alleyn does die.
Under the brief and guidance of London's famous blind magistrate, John Fielding, Rawlings is asked to investigate whether it is a deliberate case of poisoning. But who would want to poison the apothecaries? And were they targeting the Society or specifically the deceased?
As John searches for gossip, he discovers that a fellow apothecary visited the dying man's house on the morning of his death, that the Beadle had fallen out with the Master, that a bereaved parent whose son died as a result of misdiagnosis has vowed vengeance on the entire Society.
John Rawlings, London's effervescent 18th Century apothecary and occasional sleuth, tackles his most intriguing case to date.
Death at Apothecaries' Hall was originally published in 2000; the Back-in-Print edition was published in 2003:
More recent mystery novels featuring Rawlings and Fielding