Book Review: The Code for Killing by William Savage

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

The Code for KillingThe 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?

About the author:

SavageWilliam 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 Code for Killing on Amazon:

William Savage’s blog is Pen and Pension:




9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Code for Killing by William Savage”

  1. There are an awful lot of National Trust properties in Norfolk, but I’ll have to watch out for William Savage when visiting them – his books look really good!

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