William Savage: One of the Top Ten Historical Mystery Writers You Need To Be Reading
June 19, 2020
Historical mysteries during a period of turmoil sweeping through Great Britain.
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 in my time, while another of my loves is history. It seemed natural to put the two together and write historical mysteries.
To date, I have focused on two series of murder-mystery books, both set in Norfolk 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 France and Napoleon.
Why Norfolk? It is an inherently interesting county and happens to be where I live, which makes research far easier. Besides, London has been more than adequately covered by other writers. There seemed no reason why the rest of the country should be pushed into its shadow.
I have not regretted my choice. The period has far exceeded my expectations in the richness of incidents, rapidity of change, and plentiful opportunities for anyone with a macabre interest in writing about crime. I cannot see myself running out of plot material any time soon!
If you have read this far, may I offer you a warm welcome to the fascinating world of provincial England in the eighteenth century? You won’t regret venturing there, I assure you.
Mr Foxe must find the killer of a leading Master Weaver before the collapse of his business empire undermines the city’s major industry.
Norwich in the 1760s is one of the most prosperous cities in England, finding its wealth in the booming trade in fine worsted cloth, richly dyed and embroidered. So when a leading cloth-manufacturer is found murdered and his business totters on the brink of collapse, everyone fears his fall will ruin hundreds of working families and cause the economy of the whole county to collapse.
In near panic, the mayor and aldermen turn to an unlikely person to solve the riddle: Mr. Ashmole Foxe, a man who claims to be a mere bookseller, yet lives in grand style, dresses like a dandy and associates as easily with the demi-monde as the gentry.
With few firm clues to go on and every sign the dead man himself had been hiding many secrets, Mr Foxe sets out to do as the City Fathers want. Who benefited from the death? Why had the murdered man been stockpiling cloth for months? Who is the stranger now trying to buy up all this surplus stock and what will he do with it?
Follow Mr Foxe through Norwich’s teeming 18th-century streets as he seeks out the answers and tracks down a killer with more than profit on his mind.
The dark alleys of Georgian Norwich were no place for a wealthy merchant and banker to be, dead or alive. Especially one noted for his puritanical outlook. Join Mr Foxe in another rumbustious investigation as he unravels a tale as dark and treacherous as the backstreets themselves.
Mr Ashmole Foxe, Georgian bookseller and confidential investigator, has a new case: to find the murderer of a prominent Norwich merchant and banker before his businesses collapse and the city is crippled by financial panic.
What could the puritanical and rigidly teetotal Joseph Morrow have done to provoke someone to strangle him? Why was his body, reeking of brandy, found on board a wherry, moored in a rough area haunted by sailors and prostitutes? What is the secret linking one of the city’s grandest merchant houses to the wretches who drag out a brief existence in the slums and backstreets of the city?
As Foxe probes deeper, he finds disturbing evidence of cruelty, callousness and blackmail that will shock all those who knew the man. Aided by his rag-tag group of street children, Foxe steadily uncovers a sinister pattern of evil, whose dark threads reach out to snare the guilty parties and exact a fitting vengeance on all concerned.
Ashmole Foxe investigates two cases, both involving poisoned relationships from the past. A wealthy man dies amongst his own guests and a series of murders occupy centre stage at one of Norwich’s main theatres.
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 does all he can to avoid being drawn into the man’s tale of ghostly apparitions and the murder of a has-been actor. Instead, he turns to the mayor’s request — to solve the killing of a rich merchant. In the end, of course, his curiosity is going to drag him into investigating both mysteries.
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.
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.