I have read and reviewed all the books in this series, and it was so enjoyable to sit down and meet up with all the characters I’ve come to love and see the developments in their lives. That being said, anyone can pick up this book and enjoy the tale without having read the previous books. I will say for me this is the best in the series. The author seems to up his game with each new mystery.
Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller in Norwich, England, during the Georgian era. He is well-to-do from the sales of his bookstore and also his ability to find and sell rare books for significant profit. All of this he finds mundane, and over the years he has acquired a solid reputation for solving murders, which has become his raison d’etre.
This time he is called to visit the Bishop of St. Stephen’s Church, where the body of a young clergyman was discovered outside his home. The victim, the Honourable Henry Pryce-Perkins, was the warden of St. Stephen’s Hospital, a sort of retirement home for male servants and other people who worked for members of the cathedral clergy. He was also both the youngest son of a peer of the realm and a brilliant scholar at Oxford. How did he end up with a dead-end (pardon the pun) position as warden of the hospital, when he should have been moving on to a large and prestigious parish?
Street children are favorites of Foxe, and he treats them with respect and gives them money to survive. So it is not surprising that soon after the Bishop’s call, street children lead him to the richly dressed body of a young woman in a house that its neighbors swear is haunted. The house also sits strangely empty at the entrance to one of the notorious ‘yards’ of Norwich, wretched tenements housing the poorest of the poor in the city. The children also play a central role in helping Foxe solve this murder.
For the first time, and complicating Foxe’s investigative work, the women in his life are creating problems. He has enjoyed the occasional company of various women, usually actresses or denizens of high-priced brothels, but he has now tied himself to a socially acceptable lady. How can he manage her increasing demands, especially when two former ‘close friends’ are returning to Norwich?
In the process of Foxe’s investigation, we are introduced to more of the colorful characters that abound in this series: the occupants of St. Stephen’s hospital, the Bishop himself, and Oliver Lakenhurst, secretary to the Bishop and quite enamored with his perceived importance. In addition, we learn a great deal about the church, specifically its considerable library and the odd beliefs of the murdered warden. The means and the opportunity for the murder were clear but Ashmole has difficulty figuring out the why.
As usual, the author creates the world of Georgian Norwich with wonderful detail and an eye to the political and social lives of its inhabitants. I was particularly charmed by the street children, whose lives are a bleak reflection of the time. The atmosphere of this mystery is inspired, the city itself a character.
The twists and turns in Foxe’s investigation of the two murders kept me guessing, and since I tend to figure things out before the denouement of a mystery, Foxe and the Moon-Shadowed Murders was frustratingly good.
The author is a superb writer, and I mean it as a compliment that his mysteries develop at a leisurely pace, as life was in those times. If the reader is wanting something speedy, they wouldn’t have enjoyed living then.
I highly recommend Foxe and the Moon-Shadowed Murders and all the other mysteries by this writer.
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 a 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. The period has far exceeded his expectations in richness of incidents, rapidity of change and plentiful opportunities for anyone with a macabre interest in writing about crimes of every kind. He cannot see himself running out of plot material any time soon!
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Foxe and the Moon-Shadowed Murders can be found on Amazon: