Today we are celebrating the historical mystery A Sickness in the Soul by William Savage. He takes us deeper into the history of the Georgian time period, plus there's an excerpt for you to enjoy. Be sure to follow the tour for even more. And of course, there's a great giveaway at the end!
A Sickness in the Soul“Many people wear masks. Some to hide their feelings; some to conceal their identity; and some to hide that most hideous plague of mankind: a sickness in the soul.”
Ashmole Foxe, Norwich bookseller, man-about-town and solver of mysteries will encounter all of these in this tangled drama of hatred, obsession and redemption.
This is a story set in the England of the 1760s, a time of rigid class distinctions, where the rich idle their days away in magnificent mansions, while hungry children beg, steal and prostitute themselves on the streets. An era on the cusp of revolution in America and France; a land where outward wealth and display hide simmering political and social tensions; a country which had faced intermittent war for the past fifty years and would need to survive a series of world-wide conflicts in the fifty years ahead.
Faced with no less than three murders, occurring from the aristocracy to the seeming senseless professional assassination of a homeless vagrant, Ashmole Foxe must call on all his skill and intelligence to uncover the sickness which appears to be infecting his city’s very soul.
Can Foxe uncover the truth which lies behind a series of baffling deaths, from an aristocrat attending a ball to a vagrant murdered where he slept in a filthy back-alley?
Read an excerpt:
All might have continued on its stable course had not a day arrived when a stranger came to the house. Earlier that morning, Dr Danson informed Archibald Gunton, the butler, to his considerable surprise, that he was expecting a visitor. When he arrived, the butler was told, he must be admitted immediately and without question. He would await the man in his library.
The man came and spent barely twenty minutes with Dr Danson. No one saw or heard him leave. It was not until the butler entered the library about an hour later that he found the reason. His master lay slumped back in his chair, his mouth and eyes wide open. On his face, there was an expression that the butler later described to his mistress as being ‘as if he had looked into hell itself’. At his feet were his wig and a small dagger; the one which he usually kept on his desk. There was blood on the left side of his chest. It was obvious at once that the Reverend Dr Jonathon Danson, scholar of the occult and seeker after hidden knowledge, was dead.
As the news spread in the neighbourhood, two schools of opinion formed. The majority, considering Dr Danson’s circumstances, announced that it was plainly a domestic crime. An elderly rich husband takes a pretty, young wife, who was penniless before he married her. ‘Murder!’ they whispered amongst themselves. ‘Stands to reason, don’t it?’ A sizeable number reached a different conclusion; one based on rumours of the man’s strange interests. ‘Witchcraft!’ they muttered, or ‘devilry!’ Either way, that group were certain the powers of evil had come to claim one of their own.
Buy on Amazon
One of the hardest mental exercises for any writer of historical novels is to forget much of what you know about how this world of ours works. It’s true that the Georgian period marked the very beginning of a scientific approach to understanding, based on experimentation, measurement and collecting of evidence. However, such ideas were still restricted to the educated elite. For the vast majority of ordinary people, little had changed since medieval times. Medicine was stuck in the study of Galen and the belief that disease was due to an imbalance of humours. Germs and infection had yet to be linked. If the primitive, largely useless medical tools of the day failed, you either got well on your own, lived maimed and crippled, or died. Too often, it was the last.
Faced with so many terrors and misfortunes, people sought an explanation of their causes, which might offer ways to lessen or avoid them. “Why me?” is the universal cry of those in distress. “What do I do now?” is equally common. Even for the faithful, being told it’s God’s will brings little comfort.
Ordinary people in Georgian times turned to two sources to answer questions about the misfortunes they encountered. “Why me?” and “What now?” could both be answered via magical and supernatural sources, such as curses, charms and superstitions.
The Power of Tradition and Folk-Memory
What we now dismiss as quaint superstitions — if we recall them at all — were matters of vital importance in Georgian times, especially in the countryside. To ignore or overlook the proper rituals and actions associated with key events in the agricultural year was to invite disaster. Even if you had no firm explanation for such beliefs, save that things had always been done that way, to ignore tradition was to behave with arrogance towards the natural world and the spirits which lurked there. Such pride would bring punishment. Folk tales abound in stories of careless or arrogant humans suffering bad luck — or worse — as a result of not doing things as they should be done. That, of course, meant doing them as they had always been done.
A range of rituals were used to secure good fortune and a bountiful harvest. We still can’t control the weather, but we do know pretty well what to do to ensure sufficient fertility for the crops; and how to destroy pests that might ruin the harvest. Such scientific ideas about crop yield were in their infancy in the 18th century. Destroying pests was based on good husbandry and hard labour. More modern ideas in both areas had reached only the wealthiest landowners and their agents. The ordinary farmer or farm-worker either hoped things would turn out well, or turned to age-old traditions that promised answers used many times before.
“Cunning Men”, “Wise Women” and Folk Medicine
Much the same applied in cases of sickness. Professionals, like physicians, apothecaries and surgeons charged fees beyond the ability of the poor to pay. Folk remedies, written in household manuals and cookery books, cost nothing. Many were memorised or written out for use when needed. Even the mistresses of grand houses did the same, especially with herbal remedies. After all, they did as much good as the bleedings and cuppings of the physicians, or the opium and cocaine based medicines sold by the apothecaries.
Where literacy was limited, much of this traditional knowledge was kept by the Cunning Folk on behalf of the local community. The Cunning Man or Wise Woman — people like Mistress Tabby in the Ashmole Foxe stories — would have learned their lore from their parents or grandparents. Knowledge was handed down orally. Those who possessed it guarded it jealously. It was the source of their income and standing in the community. They spread the idea that to write it down might lessen its potency. They also claimed that esoteric knowledge in the hands of ‘ordinary’ persons was dangerous. In this, of course, they were no different to the medical professionals.
The Ashmole Foxe Mysteries in order
“The Fabric of Murder” http://relinks.me/B00W3SDJW8
“Dark Threads of Vengeance” http://relinks.me/B01FPQ2Q1Y
“This Parody of Death” http://relinks.me/B06XDNY81B
“Bad Blood Will Out” http://relinks.me/B079RCVQ4X
“Black as She’s Painted” http://relinks.me/B07H1SZN37
“A Sickness in the Soul” Getbook.at/SoulSickness
About William SavageI started to write fiction as a way of keeping my mind active in retirement. Throughout my life, I have read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels. One of my other loves is history, so it seemed natural to put the two together. Thus began two series of murder mystery books set in Norfolk, England.
All my books are set 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 Napoleon.
The Ashmole Foxe series takes place at the start of this time and is located in Norwich. Mr Foxe is a dandy, a bookseller and, unknown to most around him, the mayor’s immediate choice to deal with anything likely to upset the peace or economic security of the city.
The series featuring Dr Adam Bascom, a young gentleman physician caught up in the beginning of the Napoleonic wars, takes place in a variety of locations near the North Norfolk coast. Adam builds a successful medical practice, but his insatiable curiosity and knack for unravelling intrigue constantly involve him in mysteries large and small.
I have spent a good deal of my life travelling in Britain and overseas. Now I am more than content to write stories and run a blog devoted to the world of Georgian England, which you can find at http://www.penandpension.com. You can also follow me on Twitter as @penandpension.
The Ashmole Foxe Mysteries
The Ashmole Foxe Mysteries http://bit.ly/2Abn1Ks
The Fabric of Murder http://relinks.me/B00W3SDJW8
Dark Threads of Vengeance http://relinks.me/B01FPQ2Q1Y
This Parody of Death http://relinks.me/B06XDNY81B
Bad Blood Will Out http://relinks.me/B079RCVQ4X
Black as She’s Painted http://relinks.me/B07H1SZN37
A Sickness in the Soul https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WF3Y4VJ
The Dr Adam Bascom Mysteries
The Dr Adam Bascom Mysteries http://bit.ly/2k43dSQ
An Unlamented Death http://relinks.me/B00RXGWIY0
The Code for Killing http://relinks.me/B01A2BY1LU
A Shortcut to Murder http://relinks.me/B01M1R78L3
A Tincture of Secrets and Lies http://relinks.me/B075LM2TZP
Death of a Good Samaritan https://relinks.me/B07NLCGK2Y
Pen and Pension: http://bit.ly/1Kb1Q4k
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RZBGQ0K
Pen and Pension: http://bit.ly/1Kb1Q4k
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RZBGQ0K
One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Follow the tour for more chances to win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway