‘Foxe is one of those unforgettable characters’. Noelle reviews #HistoricalMystery Foxe and the Cost of Wild Oats by William Savage @penandpension

Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Noelle has been reading Foxe and the Cost of Wild Oats by William Savage

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This is the ninth in the Ashmole Foxe mystery series by this author, and I will admit front and center that I have read every one of them. I find Foxe to be one of those unforgettable characters and thoroughly enjoy the colorful environment of Georgian times in Norwich, which the author has researched perhaps better than any other author.

Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller in Norwich and is rather well-to-do from the sales of his bookstore and also his ability to find and sell rare books for significant profit. When he was first introduced, he was something of a rake – dressing colorfully, enjoying the theatre, expending some of his physical energies with high class ladies of the night – in other words sowing his wild oats.  As his ability to solve murders gained him a reputation with Norwich’s leaders, he became more refined and somewhat more sedate, leading him to affairs with societally reputable women and eventually to a relationship with a young woman many years his junior, to whom he proposed: Lucy.

This current outing of Norwich’s most famous sleuth is told from two points of view in Foxe and the Cost of Wild Oats: Ashmole’s and Lucy’s. It entails more than just the investigation of the death of a well-liked merchant, brutally murdered, but also the adjustment of both of them to married life. The difference in their ages, the lingering recognition of Ashmole’s previous reputation, Lucy’s steep learning curve as mistress of a substantial household, and her inclusion in Ashmole’s work all figure into the search for the killer.

As I would expect from a book by this author, the merchant. A Mr. Hartley, whose body is found on a quay by the River Wensum, is not what he appears to be. The scandalous behavior of his wife, his closeted life, and his unusual business arrangements created a lot of questions for this reader.

Do I like this book better than the others in the series? On the positive side, the murder, as always in this series, is just the tip of the iceberg. The author overlays it with layers upon layers of confusion, obsessive secrecy and cunning deception, leading the search for the killer to a series of solutions that have the reader believing this is the one – only to be as flummoxed as Ashmole when it hits a dead end.  On this basis, I think this is one of the best books in the series.  Plus the author spends time acquainting his readers with more of Norwich – the streets, the waterfront, businesses and the way they are run –all colorful and interesting.

On the negative side, I found the couple’s interactions occasionally overlong, silly and distracting, especially those leading up to a romp in the bedroom. Lucy can be petulant and childish, which is understandable for a young woman not yet in her twenties but made me wonder why Ashmole chose her for a wife. Lucy is bright and insightful, but I’d personally hoped he would marry the widow Crombie, who runs the bookshop for him – an older, wiser and very smart woman.  But marrying the niece of the Mayor of Norwich, an old friend, gives Ashmole an advantage with regard to his investigations and his position with the city’s leaders.

Ashmole’s detailed involvement with the street children of Norwich is a draw for me as a reader. There was less of that here, although the children provide critical investigative clues from their use in shadowing suspects and stakeouts. Many of the lesser but very colorful characters in the previous tales are nicely reintroduced.

This latest outing of Savage’s Georgian sleuth was a fun read, one which left me unsatisfied and wanting more.

Desc 1

“Remember this. Those who sow their wild oats without thought for others, sometimes live to reap a bitter harvest.”

Foxe and Lucy have had only two weeks to savour the pleasures of matrimony when a well-liked city merchant is found brutally murdered at the quay by the River Wensum. At once, they are drawn into the hunt for his killer. All agree that Josiah Hartley was an inoffensive, upright man and not at all the type to die in such a violent way. Yet someone hated him enough to want him killed. Who was it? His adulterous wife? An angry competitor? Someone he had cheated?

From the start of their investigation, Foxe and his new wife encounter layers upon layers of confusion, obsessive secrecy and cunning deception. Why did Mr Hartley condone the scandalous behaviour of his wife for so many years? What was the reason for the strangely complex way he had arranged his finances? By what means were the ownership and value of his successful business excluded from his Will?

Only after determined efforts, backed by all Foxe’s experience and cunning, are he and Lucy able to thread their way through a bewildering maze of dead ends, irrelevant diversions and carefully hidden pathways to reveal the identity of a vicious killer.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT This Parody Of Death by William Savage @penandpension #HistFic

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here http://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading This Parody Of Death by William Savage

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Book Review: This Parody of Death by William Savage @penandpension #RBRT #Georgian Mystery

This is the third book in the Ashmole Foxe series, about a Georgian dandy, bookseller, and occasional unofficial investigator. I reviewed both of the previous books and like this character. Of the three, this book is my favorite.

Ashmole Foxe, a man about town and known for his foppish ways, moves easily through Georgian Norwich because of his ownership of a popular bookstore. He has also developed something of a nose for investigation. When a miserly, curmudgeonly undertaker and bell ringer is found with his throat cut, Foxe is sought out by the local grocer, Foxe’s friend Captain Brock, and Alderman Halloran to find the killer. There are more tracks to follow in the investigation than a dog has fleas: a group committed to a secret heresy, a son who betrayed his father, a house with deep and deadly secrets, a woman determined to protect the great passion of her life, a daughter scorned, and a group of bell ringers with axes to grind. Foxe has to unwind a web of lies, false leads, and decades-old deceits to find the killer.

There were no giveaway hints in this book, and I was kept guessing almost to the end. The characters are wonderfully individual, from the urchin whom Foxe befriended, with his own army of street minions, the widow who runs his store, to the seafaring Captain Brock, who may soon be landlocked by a woman. The Georgian world created by the author is authentic to minuscule details, and the reader is immediately immersed in its colorful activity. What I liked most about This Parody of Death was the growth of Foxe. He engages in serious self-examination about the nature of his life, his over-the-top fashion, and possible goals for the future. This character is truly three dimensional and real.

There are a few drawbacks I have noted before: some repetition, over-long discussions between characters and Foxe’s lengthy considerations. However, these are minor compared to the enjoyment of this read. Who knew I would learn about the mathematical patterns of the change-ringing of church bells?

I recommend this book as a great read, as are all of William Savage’s books.

Book Description

Eighteenth-century Norwich bookseller and dandy, Ashmole Foxe, is asked by the local bellringers to look into the death of their Tower Captain, who has been found in the ringing chamber with his throat cut. Since the victim had a foul temper, as well as being a notorious miser, killjoy and recluse, there’s no shortage of suspects. Yet with everyone lying about themselves and their relationships with the dead man, Foxe knows it will take even more cunning than usual to dig out the truth. When, on top of all that, he discovers nothing about the victim is what it seems, he realises he must dig into the man’s past as well as his present. Can he ever separate truth from pretence and the genuine from the fake?  

On the track of the killer, Foxe encounters many of his city’s 18th-century inhabitants along the way, including a sharp young whore, several frightened tradesmen, a reclusive miser, an unlucky attorney, a desperate Ship’s Mate and a woman who gets the better of him nearly every time they meet. Bit by bit, Mr Foxe reveals a tale of greed, bitter family strife and unexpected love. A tale that ended in the church tower in an explosion of anger and death.

About the author

William Savage

William Savage grew up in Hereford, on the border with Wales and too his degree at Cambridge. After a career in various managerial and executive roles, he retired to Norfolk, where he volunteers at a National Trust property. His life-long interest has been history, which led to research and writing about the eighteenth century.  But his is not just a superficial interest in history, but a real desire to understand and transmit the daily experience of living in turbulent times.

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

 

 

Rosie’s Review Team #RBRT This Parody Of Death by William Savage @penandpension #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs at http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading This Parody Of Death by William Savage

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THIS PARODY OF DEATH by William Savage

4 out of 5 stars

This third Ashmole Foxe 18th century murder mystery has more humorous overtones than the first two, and is probably a more ‘easy read’ for those who are not particularly interested in historical fiction per se. Ashmole Foxe is a wealthy gentleman bookseller of Norwich, a leading member of city society and a slightly world-weary ladies’ man.  He is also known to take an interest in crime within the area, and in This Parody of Death he is invited to solve the murder of Richard Logan, an undertaker and recluse.  As Foxe delves into the lives of those involved with Logan, he uncovers far more than he had ever expected.

As ever, I quickly became absorbed in the world of 18th century Norwich; it’s a city I know, so this was interesting for me.  Mr Savage’s characterisation of Foxe is first class, as, for the first time, he begins to question his own future, his attitudes to women, and even the flamboyant way in which he dresses.  I liked that there was a look inside the head of Charlie, Foxe’s street urchin messenger, with a chapter from his own point of view, and Mr Savage makes the reader all too aware of the seamier side of life beneath the period’s veneer of respectability.  I also enjoyed the amusing insight into the mysteriously competitive world of church bell ringing (yes, it sounds a bit obscure, but it’s very well done), and the alternative views on the hypocrisy of formally accepted Christianity.

With regard to the plot itself, it is convincing, and unpredictable.  I felt there were a few inconsistencies within the novel, and some repetition of fact that was not necessary, but the uncovering of the crime is dialogue-led, so this was perhaps unavoidable in some circumstances.  The characters are the stars of this book; I’d love to see them in a novel other than a murder mystery, as I think they have potential for more.  This is a most enjoyable novel, and I’m happy to recommend it.

Book Description

Eighteenth-century Norwich bookseller and dandy, Ashmole Foxe, is asked by the local bellringers to look into the death of their Tower Captain, who has been found in the ringing chamber with his throat cut. Since the victim had a foul temper, as well as being a notorious miser, killjoy and recluse, there’s no shortage of suspects. Yet with everyone lying about themselves and their relationships with the dead man, Foxe knows it will take even more cunning than usual to dig out the truth. When, on top of all that, he discovers nothing about the victim is what it seems, he realises he must dig into the man’s past as well as his present. Can he ever separate truth from pretence and the genuine from the fake?  

On the track of the killer, Foxe encounters many of his city’s 18th-century inhabitants along the way, including a sharp young whore, several frightened tradesmen, a reclusive miser, an unlucky attorney, a desperate Ship’s Mate and a woman who gets the better of him nearly every time they meet. Bit by bit, Mr Foxe reveals a tale of greed, bitter family strife and unexpected love. A tale that ended in the church tower in an explosion of anger and death.

About the author

William Savage

William started to write fiction as a way of keeping his mind active in retirement. He had always lectured and written extensively on business topics, including three books, many articles and a successful leadership blog which garnered more than 5000 regular followers. He has no intention of letting his mind stagnate or his creativity wither. This means finding new sources of interest and inspiration.

Throughout his life, William has read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels. One of his other loves is history, especially the local history of the many places where he has lived. It seemed natural to put the two together. Thus began two series of murder mystery books set in Norfolk. Four books have appeared so far and he is currently at work on a fifth.

William’s books are set between 1760 and around 1800. This was a period of turmoil in Britain, with constant wars, the revolutions in America and France and finally the titanic, 22-year struggle with Napoleon. The Ashmole Foxe series takes place at the start of this time and is located in Norwich. Mr Foxe is a dandy, a bookseller and, unknown to most around him, the mayor’s immediate choice to deal with anything likely to upset the peace or economic security of the city. The series featuring Dr Adam Bascom, a young gentleman-physician caught up in the beginning of the Napoleonic wars, takes place in a variety of locations nearer to the North Norfolk coast. Adam tries to build a successful medical practice, but his insatiable curiosity and a knack for unravelling intrigue constantly involve him in mysteries large and small.

William has spent a good deal of his life travelling in Britain and overseas. After obtaining his degree at Cambridge, he set out on a business career, during which he lived in most parts of the UK, as well as spending eleven years in the USA. He has been a senior executive, an academic and a consultant to many multinational companies. Now he is more than content to write stories and run a new blog, devoted to the world of Georgian England, which you can find at http://www.penandpension.com.

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

Rosie’s Review Team #RBRT This Parody Of Death by William Savage @penandpension #HistFic #Mystery

Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs at https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading This Parody Of Death by William Savage

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This is the third Ashmole Fox Georgian mystery, but the first I have read. This was no hindrance as Fox’s tastes and character are soon evident to the reader and indeed in this volume he seems to be on the cusp of a changes in his character being an aging man, over 30! Ashmole lives in Norwich, which in the 18th century was a vibrant city. A rich man with plenty of time on his hands, ostensibly a book seller, but leaving the day-to-day work to the reliable Mrs Crombie, he is becoming an expert at solving murder mysteries.

On this occasion the victim is Richard Logan, the unpopular Tower Captain of the United Norwich Ringers. The Bell Ringers were soon to play the famous “Bloody Peal” but will now be unable to achieve it without their Captain. Soon Fox finds several possible murderers and also mystery concerning Logan’s family and home affairs. Aided by young Charlie Dillon, a former urchin, he is able to make use of the street children and young whores, to spy on the suspects.

The unique character of William Savage’s books is the convincing detail he gives of 18th century life without in any way slowing down the narrative. For instance, we read that the talent of weavers to memorise pattern linked to physical movement made them particularly suited to change ringing in church bell towers, which was so popular at the time and Fox’s queries about the clothing worn by different classes of women produces a fascinating description of their varied attire from his maid-servant

There are a panoply of amusing characters such as the Calderwood sisters, whose lives running a Dame school have made them a fount of local gossip. As Ashmole sits before them, they talk as if he is not in the room,
“Young Ashmole always had nice manners”, Miss Hannah said.
“Nice manners but no morals whatsoever,” her sister replied, “especially in the matter of females.”

Savage has created a believable world of historical authority which I enjoyed dipping into and I thoroughly agree with the judicious decision he makes about the murder which might not have been possible in the present day.

Book Description

Eighteenth-century Norwich bookseller and dandy, Ashmole Foxe, is asked by the local bellringers to look into the death of their Tower Captain, who has been found in the ringing chamber with his throat cut. Since the victim had a foul temper, as well as being a notorious miser, killjoy and recluse, there’s no shortage of suspects. Yet with everyone lying about themselves and their relationships with the dead man, Foxe knows it will take even more cunning than usual to dig out the truth. When, on top of all that, he discovers nothing about the victim is what it seems, he realises he must dig into the man’s past as well as his present. Can he ever separate truth from pretence and the genuine from the fake?  

On the track of the killer, Foxe encounters many of his city’s 18th-century inhabitants along the way, including a sharp young whore, several frightened tradesmen, a reclusive miser, an unlucky attorney, a desperate Ship’s Mate and a woman who gets the better of him nearly every time they meet. Bit by bit, Mr Foxe reveals a tale of greed, bitter family strife and unexpected love. A tale that ended in the church tower in an explosion of anger and death.

About the author

William Savage

William started to write fiction as a way of keeping his mind active in retirement. He had always lectured and written extensively on business topics, including three books, many articles and a successful leadership blog which garnered more than 5000 regular followers. He has no intention of letting his mind stagnate or his creativity wither. This means finding new sources of interest and inspiration.

Throughout his life, William has read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels. One of his other loves is history, especially the local history of the many places where he has lived. It seemed natural to put the two together. Thus began two series of murder mystery books set in Norfolk. Four books have appeared so far and he is currently at work on a fifth.

William’s books are set between 1760 and around 1800. This was a period of turmoil in Britain, with constant wars, the revolutions in America and France and finally the titanic, 22-year struggle with Napoleon. The Ashmole Foxe series takes place at the start of this time and is located in Norwich. Mr Foxe is a dandy, a bookseller and, unknown to most around him, the mayor’s immediate choice to deal with anything likely to upset the peace or economic security of the city. The series featuring Dr Adam Bascom, a young gentleman-physician caught up in the beginning of the Napoleonic wars, takes place in a variety of locations nearer to the North Norfolk coast. Adam tries to build a successful medical practice, but his insatiable curiosity and a knack for unravelling intrigue constantly involve him in mysteries large and small.

William has spent a good deal of his life travelling in Britain and overseas. After obtaining his degree at Cambridge, he set out on a business career, during which he lived in most parts of the UK, as well as spending eleven years in the USA. He has been a senior executive, an academic and a consultant to many multinational companies. Now he is more than content to write stories and run a new blog, devoted to the world of Georgian England, which you can find at http://www.penandpension.com.

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

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