‘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.

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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

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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

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