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

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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

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

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

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Black As She Is Painted by William Savage

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This is the fifth Ashmole Foxe Georgian mystery but only the second I have read.  William Savage is the authentic voice of Georgian Norfolk and the reader soon feels quite at home wandering the streets of Norwich with the finely dressed, eccentric, Ashmole Foxe. My personal fondness is for Dr Adam Bascom from Mr Savage’s other series, but I am beginning to warm to the wealthy, intelligent Mr Foxe. Although a womaniser who loves the best clothes and hates bad weather, he has a need to be busy and is well respected by the community for his ability to investigate crimes and bring the culprits to justice.

The story commences with a hideous murder, shortly after the mysterious departure of the victim’s husband, goldsmith and banker, Samuel Melanus.  The Mayor and important businessmen wish Foxe to discover the whereabouts of Melanus before rumour causes a run on the bank.  Aided by the group of street children who consider Foxe to be their friend, he is able to shadow the activities of the criminal underworld and find the connection between the murder and the strange behaviour of the goldsmith.

As usual, this is a slow process, intermixed with Foxe’s relationships with his friends, including Mistress Tabby, the Cunning Woman, and Captain Brock, newly returned from his honeymoon in Europe. A dalliance with Maria, a personal maid to the murder victim, is followed by an interesting new friendship with the intriguing Lady Cockerham. It was difficult to leave this intriguing, slower paced world and I am tempted to read earlier adventures in the life of Ashmole Foxe.

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.

Aided by a motley cast of street children, a beautiful teenage burglar, and several incompetent constables, Foxe must resort to breaking the law himself to bring the murderer to justice — and work out how thousands of pounds have been stolen from one of Norwich’s leading banks, without them noticing anything was missing.

With the return of Captain Brock from his Grand Tour, Foxe’s growing acceptance by the city’s elite, and wise advice from Mistress Tabby, the Cunning Woman, our hero’s life might be set fair for once — if only he wasn’t quite so willing to become involved with the low life of Norwich in his search for the truth about the missing banker and his wife, Eleanor Melanus. Was she really as black as she was painted? Or was it simply her ill fortune to be both desirable and not too bright — a woman alternately used and betrayed by the men around her? Either way, Foxe must face down a pitiless criminal enterprise to discover what really went on in the Melanus household … and in the bank next door.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT A SHORTCUT TO MURDER 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 A Shortcut To Murder by William Savage

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#Book Review: A Shortcut to Murder by William Savage @penandpension #RBRT #historical mystery

This review is for Rosie’s #Bookreview team. The book was purchased by the reviewer.

A Shortcut To Murder is the third in The Dr. Adam Bascom Mysteries set in Georgian England. I’ve read the first two and was intrigued by the historical setting and, since I’m married to a physician and taught medical students for years, was drawn to the sleuth.

The main character, Dr. Adam Bascom, practices medicine in Aylsham, a small town in Norwich. His closest friend, and the person off of whom he bounces ideas, is Peter Lassimer, a pharmacist and a confirmed ladies’ man. Indeed, Dr. Bascom’s unmarried status is the subject of many of their interchanges and a thread running through this book, as in the first two, but with more intensity.

After solving the previous two murders, the good doctor is anxious to get back to treating patients, and his first is the nephew of Lady Alice, young widow of one of Bascom’s former patients. Bascom becomes progressively drawn into this family and drawn to Lady Alice as the story evolves. However, he is interrupted in his practice yet again, this time called by his brother, Giles, a magistrate, to confirm the findings of a local coroner in the death of Sir Jackman Wennard, a local landowner, debauching scoundrel, racehorse breeder and baronet. His son, now Sir Robert, is an equally repugnant character and refuses to accept that his father’s death was anything more than an accident.

Sir Jackman was killed by a blow to his body, which caused him to fall off his horse and break his neck. Bascom quickly confirms the injury he sustained could not have resulted from a simple fall, but rather from running into a rope, which flung him back and all but severed his head from his body. There are many unresolved questions and as some are answered, others emerge. How could the blow be delivered with such force? How could the killer have known where and when to lie in wait? – especially since no one could have foreseen Sir Jackman’s movements on the morning of his death.

Who is the woman who caused Sir Jackman to take the path he did that morning, and why is his son so determined to prevent the lawyers from assessing Jackman’s belongings in order to probate his will? Piling on to Bascom’s confusion is the kidnapping of Sir Robert. Is it related to the rash of highway robberies plaguing local roads?

This is the densest of the author’s mysteries yet, with many threads that as they are pulled, reveal others. It also adds more depth to the main character, his determination to find the answers, his insight, and also his confusion about himself – does he want to remain a country doctor and how does he truly feel about women? Add to that a wealth of detailed information about life in Georgian Norwich, all of which gives the reader a rich slice of life at that time.

There are some drawbacks to this novel: there are long dialogue dumps and there is repetition galore as Bascom goes over and over what he knows with various friends and family. As I result, I did skim some pages.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this book as much as the previous one and would recommend it to anyone who likes historical mysteries.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE CODE FOR KILLING by William Savage @penandpension

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

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Noelle has been reading The Code For Killing By William Savage

 

The Code for Killing (The Dr Adam Bascom Mysteries Book 2) by [William Savage]

The Code for Killing is the second in a mystery series set in Georgian England. I read the first in the series and was intrigued by the historical setting and, since I’m married to a physician and taught medical students for years, was drawn to the sleuth, an MD and his closest friend, Peter Lassimer, a pharmacist and a confirmed ladies’ man.

I liked this book even better than the first. The main character, Dr. Adam Bascom, is written with more depth and angles to his character. He is highly intelligent with keen deductive skills, but as the story opens, he is bored with his rural practice and despairing of many of his patients – cantankerous wealthy people who do not pay their bills. He enjoyed his role as a novice detective in the first of his investigations, when he sussed out the murderer of man whose body was found in a graveyard, and longs for more excitement. He is also clueless about women, and his mother despairs he will ever form any attachment leading to marriage.

Bascom doesn’t have to endure his situation for long because he receives an urgent summons from Mr. Wicken, who had some interaction with Bascom on the previous case and heads up a clandestine department of the British government charged with finding spies. A young man has been attacked in Norwich. He is in a catatonic state, and Bascom is asked to treat him because this man is an important a code breaker for the government. In addition, the King’s Messenger who was bringing the young man documents to decode has been murdered, and the documents are missing. Before he can get to Norwich, however, Bascom is summoned by his brother to do a post-mortem on an unpopular miller and testify at the ensuing inquest. The way in which the author unravels all the threads of the story is compelling.

Characters are one of Savage’s fortes. He introduces us to several women who attract Bascom’s attention: the delightful and intelligent Sophie LaSalle, his mother’s companion, who insists on helping him with his investigations; the flirtatious Phoebe Farnsworth, an actress who introduces Bascom to the London stage; and the young and faithful wife of the elderly and wise Sir Daniel Fouchard, who requests the skills and company of Bascom to manage his pain while he is dying. Even more colorful are Captain Mimms, an old friends of Bascom’s, whose help he enlists in the investigation; two of Mimms’ former crew, the amusing scoundrels Peg and Dobbin; and Molly, a young prostitute with a heart of gold.

Beyond the characters, what I particularly enjoy about these books is the history of the politics of time (food riots, possible war with France, privateers and spying) and descriptions of the practice of medicine and pharmacy. Savage also gives the reader a fine-tuned description of Georgian society and manners and lively dialog in the manner of the times. The conversations drive the story.

I was decidedly kept guessing about where the various threads of the story would lead and how they would come together as they twisted and turned around Bascom’s detecting. This is story telling at its best. I give The Code for Killing five stars and highly recommend this series. Is it obvious I’m looking forward to reading the next book?

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE CODE FOR KILLING by William Savage @penandpension #HistFic

Today’s team review is from Jenny, she blogs at http://jennyworstall.wordpress.com

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Jenny has been reading The Code For Killing by William Savage

The Code for Killing (The Dr Adam Bascom Mysteries Book 2) by [William Savage]

The Code for Killing is a fascinating historical mystery set in Georgian England. It is the second novel in a series and there are fairly frequent references to the previous mystery, but the novel can be read and enjoyed without any previous knowledge of the first book..

The main character is Dr Adam Boscom – a man who, for all his intellect and skills, has very little understanding of women, much to his mother’s despair and also amusement. Adam relies on quite a few women to help him solve the mystery, including the delightful and spirited Miss Sophia LaSalle. I do hope there will be a sequel as I would love to hear more from this character in particular.

The mystery is set in the turbulent times of the late 1700s and there are many details about the political situations of the period, such as the riots in Norfolk, that add greatly to the vividness of the storytelling. The characters come from all walks of life – we meet the wise Sir Daniel Fouchard, Miss Phoebe Farnsworth the actress and the wonderfully named pair of sailors, Peg and Dobbin, to mention a few among many gems. The details of medical conditions and treatments at that time are described in interesting detail and I was very amused when London was described as ‘noisy and crowded’ by Adam on his welcome return to Aylsham – some things don’t change!

All in all, a really good, well-written story, with great richness of detail. Thoroughly recommended!

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com