I am always eager to read any of the books in the two Georgian mystery series by William Savage: The Adam Bascom series and the Ashmole Fox series. This new one did not disappoint.
Adam Bascom is born the younger of two sons of a country squire, and, unable to inherit, he pursues a career in medicine and sets up practice in the small town of Aylsham, not far from Norwich. In the previous books in the series, he discovers he has a talent for solving mysteries along with practicing medicine. In this outing, Dr. Bascom has made a love match in his marriage to a young and wealthy widow and has inherited, as her husband, a baronetcy, along with a large agricultural estate and a considerable amount of money.
Part of the story is his struggle to adapt to his new circumstances. He has no experience managing an estate, must adjust to being local royalty rather than a lower class country doctor, and has had to give up his medical practice to his former partner. These personal problems are never far from the new investigative case in which he becomes embroiled.
The son of a local landowner is found dead on the lonely country road leading to his father’s estate. He has been pierced through from back to front by a sharp implement wielded with some force. He was then either pulled or fell from his horse and the killer left him tidily arranged by the side of the road, face up. The father of the victim wants now Sir Adam to find the killer.
The victim, one Fredrick Dalston, is an odious and profligate young man who gambles and involves himself with women of all kinds. As the oldest son, he is bleeding his father’s estate dry by requiring money to pay off his gambling and other debts. The father is loving but ineffectual and cannot refuse his son anything. Frederick was on the way home to demand even more money, enough that would bankrupt the estate.
Unlike some of the previous Bascom mysteries, this book starts off quickly, following upon Sir Adam’s return from his honeymoon and his recognition that he is bored with his new social condition. With the encouragement of his very intelligent wife, Lady Alice, Sir Adam leaps at the chance to investigate. The heinous nature of Frederick Dalston and the many different dark alleys from which the murderer may have come are perplexing and seemingly disparate. The author leads the reader on a merry chase down many of these paths and had me convinced, like Sir Adam, that this one…no, the next one…no, another one… was the solution. I love to try to figure out these who dun its and finally figured out the answer at about the same time Sir Adam did.
As with all his books, the author does a spectacular job with the historical background, social issues, and crimes of the time. He has created memorable characters in Lady Alice, Peter Lassimer – Sir Adam’s best friend and an apothecary, Sir Adam’s mother and the various members of Lady Alice’s family.
The pace of all of William Savages book is deliberately slow, as befits the time. This is no investigation by Kathy Reichs or Michael Connelly – after all, it is set in a time when life moved at a careful and enjoyable pace without electronics, phones or cars. The reader must sink into it and enjoy the social interactions that lead Bascom in his thinking. In this book, I also found the descriptions of the countryside were a source of great pleasure.
I highly recommend this book and encourage readers to dip into the others in this series and the Ashmole Fox series. Every book is a stand-alone, although the characters progress in their lives during each series.
Awaiting the next book and hoping that Sir Adam finds a way to worm back into his medical practice – a great source of characters, gossip and medical history.
About the author:
William Savage grew up in Hereford, on the border with Wales and took his degree at Cambridge. After a working life largely spent teaching and coaching managers and leaders in Britain, Europe and the USA, he retired to Norfolk, where he volunteers at a National Trust property and started to write fiction as a way of keeping his mind active in retirement. He had read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels and another of his loves was history, so it seemed natural to put the two together and try his hand at producing an historical mystery. To date, he has 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, the revolutions in America and France and finally the titanic, 22-year struggle with France and Napoleon.
Norfolk is not only an inherently interesting county, it happens to be where the author lives, which makes the necessary research far easier. The Georgian period seemed natural choice for him as well, since he lives in a small Georgian town, close by several other towns that still bear the imprint of the eighteenth century on many of their streets and grander buildings. It also had the attraction of being a period he had never studied intensively, and so far he has not regretted his choice.
You can find The Reluctant Heir on Amazon:
William Savage’s blog is Pen and Pension: http://penandpension.com I highly recommend his blog for his fascinating posts on all aspects of life in Georgian England.
You can also find him
On Twitter: @penandpension
And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009908836774