Book Review: A Sickness in the Soul by William Savage (@penandpension) #RBRT # British historical mystery

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This book was purchased for review.

I will admit I am a fan of William Savage’s mysteries. He has two series, one about Adam Bascomb, MD, and the other about Ashmole Foxe, bookseller, stylish dresser and man about town. Both are set in or around Norwich, England in the period between 1760 and 1800, a period of great turmoil in the country.  I enjoy both, but Ashmole Foxe is a favorite character of mine.

Although Ashmole Foxe is not of the nobility, he is a tradesman of the highest order and has a friend in Alderman Halloran. Halloran serves as a link between Foxe and the mayor of the city and its wealthy merchants, who frequently employ his investigative talents and logical mind in solving the murders of noblemen and women, merchants, and tradesmen. Mr. Foxe has developed nicely through the series (each book of which is stand-alone) with the gradual creation of an extended family that assists him in his pursuit of murderers: Mrs. Susannah Crombie, a widow who runs his bookshop; Charlie, a street urchin whom Foxe is grooming to be a bookbinder and who interacts with street urchins in pursuing clues for Foxe; and Miss Tabitha Studwell, a Cunning Woman (wise woman), herbalist and healer.

In this outing, Foxe finds himself with three murders to solve, and the each present him with different challenges. The first, and most important to the mayor, is the stabbing death of the son of Lord Frederick Aylestone, son of Viscount Penngrove, at a masquerade. The second is the death of an elderly collector of books of the occult, found stabbed in his library following an interview with a rare visitor. The third, and the one which Foxe is most emotionally involved, is the stabbing death of a man the street urchins called ‘Uncle’ – a poor person who lived on the streets but who was good and kind to them and whose body was discovered to have a valuable pendant around the neck, bearing the crest of a local semi-noble family.

The various paths Foxe chooses takes in solving each mystery are intertwined but are taken slowly and deliberately – after all, this is a historical period when life proceeds at a slow pace and within the confines of social norms. I enjoyed the challenge of seeing if I could keep up with, or ahead of, Foxe in his thinking. This only happened with the first murder but was enjoyable nonetheless. The twists and turns of each path keeps readers on their toes and second-guessing.

The author is a past master of the history of the times and manages to include a wealth of detail – the city and its underbelly of crime, the people, and the social strata, not to mention the clothes, the food, manners and the décor. All of this makes the reader feel they are living there with Ashemole Foxe. Each character is well-drawn and compelling for their sins, foibles, or goodness. The mysteries are always drawn to a suitable conclusion, and there is always a teaser at the end. In the last book, Foxe, a heretofore confirmed bachelor who satisfied his needs in elite brothels, proposed to Lady Arabella Cockerham. Her response led him to believe he had been rejected. Or had he? This time around we learn more about Lady Arabella.

This was a thoroughly satisfying book and for fans of William Savage and for those who have not yet had the pleasure of being introduced to his two sleuths, I highly recommend this as a great read.

About the author:

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.

You can find the author

On Twitter: @penandpension

On his blog: http://penandpension.com

You can find A Sickness in the Soul on Amazon:

 

12 thoughts on “Book Review: A Sickness in the Soul by William Savage (@penandpension) #RBRT # British historical mystery

  1. I see William’s already seen this, but I think I spoke to him at Blickling Hall where he does their ‘in-costume’ days. Of course, I may be mixing him up with someone else!

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