This review is for Rosie’s Book Review Team. The book was purchased by the reviewer.
A Tincture of Secrets and Lies is the fourth book in the Dr. Adam Bascom Mysteries series by William Savage. His other series is the Ashmole Foxe Mysteries and both are set in Georgian England, in and around Norwich. I’ve read the previous three Dr. Adam Bascom books, mainly because I love mysteries, history, and am married to a physician. A perfect syzygy for Savage’s books. Despite being part of a series, A Tincture of Secrets and Lies can be read as a stand-alone, without any confusion on the part of the reader.
The main character, Dr. Adam Bascom, practices medicine in Aylsham, a small town in Norwich. His closest friend, and the person off whom he bounces ideas, is Peter Lassimer, a pharmacist and a confirmed ladies’ man. Dr. Bascom’s unmarried status has the subject of many of their interchanges, but this book hints that his status may change, sooner or later. Dr. Bascom has fallen in love with Lady Alice, young and wealthy widow of one of his former patients.
The story opens on the night of April 13, 1793 with two significant events. Bascom is thrown from his horse on his way home, and lies unconscious for a long time on a remote country road. At the same time, some miles away, a young woman is viciously stabbed, her body pushed under a hedge to prevent it from being discovered.
The good doctor, although badly hurt, rouses himself enough to let his horse lead him home, but his injuries are serious enough to keep him there for an extended recovery period. In previous adventures, Bascom has developed into an astute detective, and when two other murders are discovered, he is naturally sought out to solve them. However, this time he is frustratingly confined to his bed and must use Peter Lassimer, plus the nephew and niece of Lady Alice, and even his groom, William, to be his eyes, ears and legs to find the killer. Through them, he uncovers a plot to destabilize the country, already on edge with a threatened invasion by the French, and the topic of smuggling, rampant on the English coast, becomes entwined in the story.
I shared the sheer frustration of Bascom, being confined to his room and then his home, and at the mercy of his housekeeper, Mrs. Brigstone; Hannah, the nervous parlor maid; and Mrs. Munning, a warm-hearted young widow brought in to nurse him. I was nearly tearing my hair out, right along with the patient. How the author managed to keep the plot afoot from Bascom’s confines is a real feat, but allows him to write from different characters’ points of view, which keeps the readers interest. I particularly enjoyed, Professor Panacea (wherever did Savage get that name?), a snake oil salesman with real charisma but no medical knowledge.
Characters from previous books in the series evolve in this one. Lady Alice’s niece, Ruth Scudamore, is a young woman who dislikes the trapping s of traditional society, and is more than happy to investigate and interview people at Bascom’s direction. She reminds me of a Georgian Nancy Drew. Her twin brother Charles, who has been unable to find a focus for his life other than genteel leisure, discovers what he’s made of working for the doctor. Through him, the reader gets to experience a military attack to stop a group of rebels. The reader is kept hanging about the outcome of the doctor’s relationship with Lady Alice, who keeps a huge secret from Bascom. Perhaps in the next book?
The author’s ability to weave interesting characters into the social mores and historical detail of the day is his strength, along with a complex and complicated story line. The book is written at the pace of the time, and there is lengthy dialogue, both of which can take a period of adjustment for the reader; however, with the varied settings and points of view, the mystery never flags. I recommend it to all, but especially to readers who love mysteries in perfectly described, historically accurate settings.
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 A Tincture of Secrets and Lies on Amazon:
William Savage’s blog is Pen and Pension: http://penandpension.com/author/bluebrdz1946/