Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction #Mystery Death Of A Good Samaritan by William Savage @penandpension

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Death Of A Good Samaritan by William Savage

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William Savage is the author of two Georgian mystery series, one featuring Ashmole Fox, a colorful book seller, and the other Adam Bascom, a physician. I will confess that despite my medical background, I have been drawn more to Ashmole Fox, but this latest in the Adam Bascom series has changed my mind.

This book is located in Norfolk market town of Aylsham in 1794 and as well as Millgate and the Bure Navigation – the upper reaches of the river Bure, which extended from from Horstead to Aylsham and which included locks. The author has included a map, which greatly helped in my understanding of the area. Agricultural produce and bricks were among the main cargoes on the new navigation, carried by wherries, which to readers on this side of the pond, is a long, light, shallow-draft rowboat used for transporting goods and passengers.

Now to the story: Dr. Adam Bascom wants nothing more than to be fully engaged in his medical practice, but he is wildly distracted –first by his love for Lady Alice Fouchard and then by the murder of a kindly surgeon on the outskirts of Aylsham. The death is ruled an accidental death by the local coroner, who has no medical background nor any evidence to support his conclusion. Bascom, who has an established record of solving cases of mysterious deaths, is drawn to discover what happened to his fellow physician but finds no more than tidbits of information and is frustrated by the reluctance of the locals to talk to some of a high social status.

As a reader, I was getting very frustrated myself until the good doctor meets the surgeon’s former housekeeper, Rose Thoday. Ms.Thoday is not your usual housekeeper, being something of a wise woman (skilled in the use of herbs and plants in healing) and having learned a great deal of medicine from her former employer. She wants to be an equal partner in the investigation, posing a conundrum to Bascom – he needs her information and help but how can he collaborate on equal terms with a mere woman? What will upper-class society — and Lady Alice — think of him if he does?

What Rose and Bascom eventually find, with many stops and starts, is a conspiracy of clever, desperate and ruthless men, deeply involved in smuggling and murder. All face the gallows if they are brought to justice, and one will not hesitate to kill again in order to avoid discovery.

As usual, the author does an incredible job bringing the reader into the Georgian Age. Competition from railroads and a disastrous flood that caused major damage to the locks on the river early in the 20th century led to the end of the Bure Navigation, which has not been restored. Thus the author has done a yeoman’s job helping the reader see this historical navigation as it was in its heyday.

The detail is outstanding and the characters, many introduced in previous books, are compelling. Lady Alice is intelligent and gracious and knows well and accepts Bascoms foibles. His closest friend, the apothecary Peter Lassimer, does not figure as largely, but offers humor to counter the doctor’s gloominess. Rose Thoday is a very forward woman, whose fearlessness I enjoyed.

The plot was tortuous and I was constantly rearranging my suspects. I’ve learned from the previous books in both series that the pace of life in the 1700s was slow compared to today, and thus the mysteries in these books develop at the same deliberate pace. It makes the reading of the book leisurely, which contributes to the absorption of the details.

I liked this book the best of the Adam Bascom series and I highly recommend it to mystery readers and especially lovers of historical mysteries.

Book description

A new investigation is the last thing that Dr Adam Bascom wants. He’d much prefer to devote himself to sorting out his future. But when a kindly surgeon living on the edge of Aylsham is brutally murdered, and the local coroner does all he can to bring in a verdict of accidental death, Adam knows he has no choice.
At first, a grave shortage of direct evidence and the reluctance of the locals to talk freely to someone so far above them socially look set to prevent any progress. Still, Adam persists, drawing on whatever help he can muster from friends and contacts. Even so, progress is slow until more help arrives in the unexpected form of the surgeon’s former housekeeper, Rose Thoday. Can our young doctor accept collaborating on equal terms with a mere woman? What will upper-class society — and Lady Alice — think of him if he does?
Adam must grapple with much more than the dispassionate mental challenges he’s been used to. This time, he’s up against against a conspiracy of clever, desperate and ruthless men. All face the gallows if they are brought to justice. One at least will not hesitate to kill again to save himself.
This is a contest which may very well cost Adam and Rose their lives.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #WW2 #Histfic The Lost Letters by @SarahM_writer @bookouture

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Lost Letters by Sarah Mitchell

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The novel tells two stories centred in two different times, one set in the 1940s, mostly in WWII Norfolk, although with some visits to London, and another taking place now, also set in Norfolk in its majority. The chapters set in the past are written in the past tense from the point of view of Sylvia, a married woman, mother of two children, still pining for her teenage love. When her aunt dies she leaves her a beach hut and through it she meets Connie, a girl from London, and her brother Charlie. Despite the distance and the difficulty in maintaining communication during the war, they become friends, and their lives intertwine in unexpected ways.

The chapters set in the present are written in the present tense (something I must confess took me some time to get used to, although it means it is very difficult to get confused as to where you are or who is talking), and told from the point of view of Martha, a Canadian teacher whose father was evacuated during the war from England to Canada. Following the death of her father and gaps in the information about his childhood (as he was working on an autobiography when he died), she decides to use the opportunity offered by her father’s plane ticket and the hotel and beach hut he had booked to do some research into his past.

Both women, whose stories most readers will guess must be connected in some way, have their own problems. Sylvia’s marriage is not exactly happy, the war takes her husband away, and apart from the everyday danger and destruction, she has to face the evacuation of her son. The author manages to create a good sense of the historical period and, in particular, of women’s lives during the war, without being heavy-handed in the use of descriptions or over-the-top in the nostalgic front. We experience the character’s turmoil, her doubts, and although we might not always agree with her decisions, it is easy to empathise and understand why she does what he does.

Martha is at a bit of a loss. She is divorced and although her ex-husband has moved on (he has remarried and has twins), it is not that clear if she has, as she still sends him birthday cards and seems jealous of her daughter’s relationship with her father’s new wife. She knows her relationship with her daughter Janey, who is studying at Cambridge, is strained but seems to have forgotten how to communicate with her. Her research into her father’s childhood and past gives her a focus, and the mystery behind Catkins (a file her sister finds in her father’s computer) and his/her identity help give her a purpose.

We have some male characters (and Martha’s father and his past are at the centre of the novel), but this is a novel about women: about mothers and daughters, about friends, about women pulling together to survive and to get stronger (I particularly enjoyed the chapters set during the war recalling the tasks women were doing in the home front, and how they supported each other becoming all members of an extended family), about the difficult decisions women were (and are) faced with for the good of their families and their children. The author is very good at conveying the thought processes of her characters and although it also has a great sense of place (and I am sure people familiar with Norfolk will enjoy the book enormously, and those of us who don’t know it as well will be tempted to put it on our list to visit in the future), in my opinion, its strongest point is its great psychological depth.

The book is well researched and it has a lightness of touch, avoiding the risk of slowing down the story with unnecessary detail or too much telling. As the different timelines are kept clearly separate I do not think readers will have any difficulty moving from one to the other.

The book flows well and the intrigue drives the reader through the pages, with red herrings and twists and turns included, although its pace is contemplative, as it pertains to the theme. It takes its time, and it allows its readers to get to know the characters and to make their own conjectures. I worked out what was likely to be the connection slightly before it was revealed, but it is very well done, and I don’t think readers will be disappointed by the ending.

A great first book, that pulls at the heartstrings, recommended to lovers of historical fiction and women’s fiction, especially those interested in WWII and the home front in the UK. I will be following the author’s career with interest in the future.

Book description

What if keeping your loved ones safe meant never seeing them again? 

Norfolk, 1940: Sylvia’s husband Howard has gone off to war, and she is struggling to raise her two children alone. Her only solace is her beach hut in Wells-Next-The-Sea, and her friendship with Connie, a woman she meets on the beach. The two women form a bond that will last a lifetime, and Sylvia tells Connie something that no-one else knows: about a secret lover… and a child.

Canada, present day: When Martha’s beloved father dies, he leaves her two things: a mysterious stash of letters to an English woman called ‘Catkins’ and directions to a beach hut in the English seaside town of Wells. Martha is at a painful crossroads in her own life, and seizes this chance for a trip to England – to discover more about her family’s past, and the identity of her father’s secret correspondent.

The tragedy of war brought heartbreaking choices for Sylvia. And a promise made between her and Connie has echoed down the years. For Martha, if she uncovers the truth, it could change everything…

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