‘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

59683320. sx318

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

59683320. sx318

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalMystery Foxe And The Path Into Darkness by William Savage @penandpension #TuesdayBookBlog

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 Path Into Darkness by William Savage

57733371. sx318

I had been awaiting this latest Ashmole Foxe mystery since the author told me it was on its way. I am an unrepentant fan of this mystery series, and I bought a copy for review.

Ashmole Foxe Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller in Norwich, England, during the Georgian era. He is well-to-do from the sales of his bookstore and also his ability to find and sell rare books for significant profit. All of this he finds mundane, and over the years he has acquired a solid reputation for solving murders, which has become his raison d’etre. 

The story:

Ashmole Foxe is tasked by the City Alderman to locate the mayor of Norwich, Robert Belton, who seems to have disappeared. Belton is well limned by the author as a middle aged man who became mayor by luck rather than talent, since the title and the task is awarded traditionally by seniority. The unexpected deaths of several more senior alderman moved Belton to the top of the list.  It is clear even to Belton that he is not worthy of the job, being regarded as a lightweight by the other Alderman, and furthermore, not having the wealth required by a Mayor to pay for the traditional mayoral social duties. His wife thoroughly dislikes him, and he has taken a prosperous business handed to him at his father’s death and run it into the ground with poor management, theft, and disinterest. His attempts as mayor to make changes in Norwich are met with resistance from his fellow Aldermen, and he does what he usually does – drops whatever he is fixed on and moves on to something equally unlikely to succeed. This is the man Foxe is to find, even though it is clear that his wife doesn’t want him found and the Aldermen are only asking because of the difficulty in not having a mayor to lead the city.

The job comes at a perfect time for Foxe, who has been listless and bored for several months, all of the women in his life – none of them truly serious relationships – having moved on. In the course of receiving this task from Alderman Halloran, a close friend, Foxe is reacquainted with the younger of the two nieces who live with Halloran, Miss Lucy Halloran. Both nieces have recently returned from an extended stay in Paris, and Lucy has morphed from a “dear, awkward, wayward, unconventional and bright” girl to a desirable and beautiful woman in Foxe’s eyes.  Foxe is instantly smitten and rendered speechless. Lucy displays some of her youth in berating Foxe for not having corresponded with her in Paris, souring their initial meeting.

The two story lines become intertwined as Foxe soon discovers a complex tangle of events with no real leads. He makes little progress, reaching one dead end after another, until Lucy helps him find the right threads. As usual, he uses the street children of Norwich, Mrs. Crombie, the manager of his bookstore, and Mistress Tabby, an herbalist and Wise Woman, to help him track down clues and news. The descent into darkness is both Foxe’s own, as he despairs of ever winning Lucy’s affection, but also that of Robert Belton, as the reader learns.

My take on this book:

There were several lovely aspects of this book, in addition to the colorful characters populating Foxe’s world, ones I have grown to enjoy. First is an exquisite description of Norwich through Foxe’s eyes, as he takes his roundabout walk to his favorite coffee house each morning. The author’s historical knowledge of Georgian times and Norwich in particular is prodigious and his characters are memorable. The second is the total frustration that grows in the reader when every step taken by Foxe is a false one. And third is the character of Belton himself, whose point of view opens the book.  I think his point of view is a necessary prequel to what follows. And finally, there is a lot of physical action at the end of the book. For a Georgian mystery, which moves at the pace of the time, this is a sea change.

The only unsettling aspect, to my mind, is the relationship between Foxe and Lucy. She begins with a childlike temper tantrum, and yet Foxe falls immediately in love with this seventeen-year-old. Foxe is in his early thirties, by my reckoning, and is a man of the world! Even though the age of consent at the time was twelve for girls, I found the age difference and the speed with which Foxe was consumed by physical thoughts of Lucy a little disconcerting. But this is probably my own view through modern eyes. I might add, having read the other books, that is past time for Mr. Foxe to have a serious, reciprocated relationship, so bravo to the author.

All in all, I highly recommend this book as a worthy addition to this mystery series, and anyone who has read the previous books will heartily enjoy this one. It is dark, but also surprising. To those who haven’t yet met Ashmole Foxe, you can start here without any problem since the author brings the reader up to date.

Desc 1

When the mayor of Norwich disappears without trace roughly half-way through his term of office, the entire city government is thrown into chaos. Every thought turns to Mr Foxe, who is told to make finding the mayor his single priority. Nothing must stand in the way of achieving that goal. Nothing.

Foxe, listless and bored, has not had a mystery worthy of his attention for several months. He’s also still hurting from Lady Cockerton’s treatment of him. Even his oddly platonic friendship with Mrs Danson must end in two days, when she finally leaves Norwich for good. Perhaps a mystery will put some life back into him?

Before he can even begin, an unexpected encounter in Alderman Halloran’s hallway turns Foxe’s life upside down, so that for three days of confusion and anguish he can do nothing but struggle with an overwhelming crisis in his own life. The search for the mayor is forgotten.

At length, with help from an unexpected source, Foxe sets out doggedly on the trail of the missing man. He soon finds he must unravel a complex and unexpected tangle of events to get anywhere. Blocked and frustrated many times, he finally reveals the slow descent into darkness and an inevitable fate that lies behind what seemed a simple puzzle.

All the time, he is still struggling with a problem that threatens to wreck his entire future. Just as he sees a path ahead that offers the possibility of undreamed-of joy and happiness, he finds he may well have managed to block it completely before he can even set out. Can he find his way through this tangle as well?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

57733371. sx318

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery Black As She’s Painted by @penandpension #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Black As She’s Painted by William Savage

42069989

Black as She’s Painted is the fifth book in the Ashmole Foxe Mysteries series by William Savage.  His other series is the Dr. Adam Bascom Mysteries and both are set in Georgian England, in and around Norwich. I will be honest and reveal I am a huge fan of William Savage and have enjoyed both of these mystery series. However, even though I come from a medical background, the Ashmole Foxe books are slight favorites, possibly because of the charismatic, unconventional and quirky protagonist.

Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller with his own shop, run largely and profitably for him by an entrepreneurial widow, Mrs. Crombie. Foxe is a dandy and an unrepentant hedonist, a lover of beautiful women in his bed, fine wine and a surfeit of good food, but despite all these social faults, he has solved several other mysteries for Norwich’s political and mercantile elite. Thus it is natural for him to be approached for assistance when a rich goldsmith turned banker Samuel Mellanus goes missing. Almost immediately there is further news: the banker’s wife, who has a promiscuous reputation, has been found naked and strangled to death in her own bed.

A group of politicians/merchants need Foxe to find Mellanus, since having a missing banker is catastrophic for a bank and its money, but they also need him to discover how thousands of pounds have been stolen from the bank, without anyone noticing they were missing…until now. Add to this conundrum is the fact that Mellanus had closed his gold smithing business for no apparent reason, letting all his workers go, and Foxe discovers that coins and jewelry were taken from Mr. and Mrs. Mellanus by their pretty maid Maria.

Can Foxe find Mellanus and the missing money? Was Eleanor Mellanus as black as she was painted, or was it simply her misfortune to be both desirable and dumb, used and betrayed by the men she welcomed to her bed?

To solve these crimes, Foxe will use his considerable investigative powers and intellect, plus the help of characters introduced in previous books: a motley crew of street children, Mistress Tabby – a so-called Cunning Woman or folk healer, who practices folk medicine and magic, and a sea captain, Captain Brock, who has just returned from his honeymoon.

As usual, the author wraps the solution to these crimes in layer upon layer of hard- won information, much of it not useful at the time of its uncovering, plus a number of tangential crimes. Also as usual, the reader learns a great deal about specific aspects of Georgian life. In each book one of these aspects is a focal point, in this case coinage and banking.

William Savage is a living compendium of Georgian life, and he creates a world into which the reader is absorbed, alternatively colorful and dangerous, and populated by characters that become real. Over the series, I have come to look forward to the reappearance of many of them, interested in how their lives are evolving, as they most certainly do.

I was not disappointed by the tangled ball of yarn created by the author to be unwound by Ashmole Foxe. The pacing of this mystery series is slow, in keeping with life in Georgian England, and is something I have learned to enjoy. It allows the reader to savor the story.

If I had one criticism, it is the length of time it takes to get to the mystery. There is always a period of introduction at the beginning of the Foxe stories but this one was long enough to be on the tedious side.

I was also disappointed that the changes in Foxe’s life in the last book – his turn to more sedate attire and true consideration of the women in his life – were not evident in this one. Can this man go on forever in his present state? Will age catch up with him? I guess I will have to wait for the next book to find out.

In any event, as always, I strongly recommend this latest Ashmole Foxe adventure to anyone who likes historical mysteries and to anyone who might!

Book description

Samuel Melanus, a rich goldsmith turned banker goes missing, and his promiscuous wife is found naked and strangled on her own bed. It’s yet another case for Georgian Norwich’s most cunning and unconventional crime-solver, the bookseller Mr Ashmole Foxe.

Foxe is approached by representatives of the city’s mercantile elite to find the missing banker before his disappearance causes a financial panic. Then, right at the start, news comes that the man’s wife has been found murdered. Thus begins a tale of intrigue, deceit and hatred, involving one of Foxe’s most loathed enemies.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery Bad Blood Will Out by William Savage @penandpension

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Bad Blood Will Out by William Savage

39005589

This review is for Rosie’s Book Review Team. The book was purchased by the reviewer.

Bad Blood Will Out is the fourth in the Ashmole Fox series of mysteries set in Georgian England. The protagonist is the owner of a bookstore and is also the purveyor of rare books in central Norwich. He was introduced in the first book in this series, The Fabric of Murder, as somewhat of a fop, who frequents ladies of the night, the theater, and fine dining establishments. Over the series, he has grown into a much more established figure, well-know to the leaders of Norwich as a successful investigator of more serious crimes. His bookstore is now run by a widow with clever business skills: the proper, reliable and clever widow Mrs. Crombie. He also has an apprentice, Charlie Dillon, who was rescued by Fox from a life in the streets. Charlie has retained his connections to the street urchins, which proves of inestimable value in Fox’s investigations. Fox is one of the few elite of Norwich with a genuine understanding of, and care for, these children.

Bad Blood Will Out is probably my favorite in this series, and I have read and reviewed them all. It works well as a stand-alone mystery, which should tickle the reader to take a look at the first three. Before I go into my reasons for this, here’s the story line.

Fox has the bad luck to be presented with two murders at much the same time: one of a wealthy chandler (a dealer in supplies for boats and ships) and the other an alcoholic, over-the-hill actor at a local, run-down theater, the White Swan. Fox tries to avoid being involved in investigating the second murder because he loathes the manager of the White Swan. At the same time, he is forced by his inconsiderate brother, a moralistic preacher in the countryside, to entertain his nephew Nicholas, who is trying to find a profession for himself. Fox begins to unravel the chandler’s stabbing, which occurred while he was hosting a masquerade ball and was surrounded by guests., But Fox finds his mind wandering to the theater murder, which he finally decides to tackle by using the network of street children to gather evidence. What does the death of a popular actress twenty years ago have to do with the theater murder?

In this Fox adventure, we meet some interesting new characters, among them the local Cunning Woman – the Georgian term for a folk healer and herbalist – who in this case has some clairvoyant qualities. She has some past history with Fox and sends him a cryptic message about his necessity to solve both murders.

As usual, William Savage has woven his story into the historical tapestry of Georgian England, with wonderful details of life at that time, its customs and mores, and the nature of theater in places apart from London. His mystery, as always, is complex – lies and deceit abound. His characters are wonderfully drawn and three-dimensional, and there is a subtle but lovely sense of humor in the dialog and interactions between his people.

The reason I particularly liked this latest Ashmore Fox adventure was a compelling first chapter – really a prologue – and the evolving maturity of Fox. Although we are introduced to his sins of the flesh, I got the distinct feeling he might eventually consider marriage. It seems a likely direction, but I leave that to the author!

A great addition to the Ashmole Fox series, I highly recommend it!

Book description

Ashmole Foxe is approached by the mayor of Norwich and the manager of one of its oldest theatres, both wanting him to investigate sudden, baffling deaths. Foxe loathes the theatre manager, so he’ll have nothing to do with his tale of ghostly apparitions and the murder of an alcoholic, has-been actor. Instead, he turns to the mayor’s request — to resolve the killing of a rich merchant. The trouble is Foxe can’t quite put the theatre mystery out of his mind.

Both cases contain inexplicable events. How did someone stab the merchant as he was hosting a grand masquerade ball surrounded by his guests — without anyone seeing what happened? What has an actress dead for twenty years to do with the murder of someone who shouldn’t even have been in the current cast?

Urged on by cryptic messages from a local Cunning Woman and supported by his extended household and the street-children of the city, Foxe is soon entangled in webs of secrecy and deceit going back into the past and outwards as far as London itself.

“Bad Blood Will Out” is Book 4 of the Ashmole Foxe mystery series. Like the rest, it’s set in the fascinating world of 1760s England. The story shows how betrayal, greed, ambition and grief lead to a toxic mix of thwarted passions, grim obsession and slow-burning hatred. Before the end, it’s going to bring Foxe face-to-face with the most callous, cold-hearted and remorseless killer he has ever known.

About the author

I started to write fiction as a way of keeping my mind active in retirement. I have read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels. One of my other loves is history, so it seemed natural to put the two together. Thus began two series of murder mystery books set in Norfolk.
All my books are set between 1760 and around 1800, a period of turmoil in Britain, with constant wars, 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 the North Norfolk coast. Adam builds a successful medical practice, but his insatiable curiosity and knack for unravelling intrigue constantly involve him in mysteries large and small.
I have spent a good deal of my life travelling in Britain and overseas. Now I am more than content to write stories and run a blog devoted to the world of Georgian England.

William Savage

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistFic #Mystery Bad Blood Will Out by @penandpension

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Bad Blood Will Out by William Savage

39005589

4 out of 5 stars

This is the fourth in the Ashmole Foxe series of 18th century murder mysteries.  Foxe is a dapper entrepreneur living in the centre of Norwich.  Officially, he is a bookseller and purveyor of rare volumes, but in reality he has little interest in his shop, leaving it to be run by the reliable Mrs Crombie.  Aside from this, Foxe dabbles his fingers in many pies, not least of all the solving of murders to which he is often referred by the Alderman and other leading lights in the city.

In Bad Blood Will Out, Foxe is presented with two murders: one is that of a wealthy chandler, the other an actor in the White Swan theatre.  At first Foxe dismisses the latter, but finds his thoughts returning to it over and over.  His days are busy; he is also obliged to play host to his nephew Nicholas, who has come to the city to learn how to become a businessman.  As the early chapters progress, Foxe soon finds that, despite the presence of the odious Postgate, the theatre stage manager he and most others detest, he cannot resist delving into the White Swan murder – which soon becomes murders in the plural.

Like all of William Savage’s books, Bad Blood Will Out is a highly readable mix of intricate plot construction and wonderful characters; Ashmole Foxe remains a delight, and the other characters are all fully rounded, with plenty of subtle humour in the dialogue.  The time and place is beautifully illustrated, with a backdrop of the world of 18th century theatre.

A stunning first chapter about a fire at the theatre some years before had my interest well and truly piqued, and the unfolding plot lived up to expectations (and the murder weapon had me stumped!).  I did wish, on occasion, that more events were shown in the same way as that first chapter, rather than being described/reported to Foxe, but this is just the personal preference of one who likes stories told from several points of view; I certainly enjoyed this novel and am sure Mr Savage’s many readers will find it every bit as charming as all the others.

Book description

Ashmole Foxe is approached by the mayor of Norwich and the manager of one of its oldest theatres, both wanting him to investigate sudden, baffling deaths. Foxe loathes the theatre manager, so he’ll have nothing to do with his tale of ghostly apparitions and the murder of an alcoholic, has-been actor. Instead, he turns to the mayor’s request — to resolve the killing of a rich merchant. The trouble is Foxe can’t quite put the theatre mystery out of his mind.

Both cases contain inexplicable events. How did someone stab the merchant as he was hosting a grand masquerade ball surrounded by his guests — without anyone seeing what happened? What has an actress dead for twenty years to do with the murder of someone who shouldn’t even have been in the current cast?

Urged on by cryptic messages from a local Cunning Woman and supported by his extended household and the street-children of the city, Foxe is soon entangled in webs of secrecy and deceit going back into the past and outwards as far as London itself.

“Bad Blood Will Out” is Book 4 of the Ashmole Foxe mystery series. Like the rest, it’s set in the fascinating world of 1760s England. The story shows how betrayal, greed, ambition and grief lead to a toxic mix of thwarted passions, grim obsession and slow-burning hatred. Before the end, it’s going to bring Foxe face-to-face with the most callous, cold-hearted and remorseless killer he has ever known.

About the author

I started to write fiction as a way of keeping my mind active in retirement. I have read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels. One of my other loves is history, so it seemed natural to put the two together. Thus began two series of murder mystery books set in Norfolk.
All my books are set between 1760 and around 1800, a period of turmoil in Britain, with constant wars, 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 the North Norfolk coast. Adam builds a successful medical practice, but his insatiable curiosity and knack for unravelling intrigue constantly involve him in mysteries large and small.
I have spent a good deal of my life travelling in Britain and overseas. Now I am more than content to write stories and run a blog devoted to the world of Georgian England.

William Savage

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter