Black As She’s Painted (An Ashmole Foxe Georgian Mystery) by William Savage
Genre: Historical – Thriller – Crime Fiction
Samuel Melanus, a rich goldsmith turned banker goes missing, and his promiscuous wife is found naked and strangled on her own bed. It’s yet another case for Georgian Norwich’s most cunning and unconventional crime-solver, the bookseller Mr Ashmole Foxe.
Foxe is approached by representatives of the city’s mercantile elite to find the missing banker before his disappearance causes a financial panic. Then, right at the start, news comes that the man’s wife has been found murdered. Thus begins a tale of intrigue, deceit and hatred, involving one of Foxe’s most loathed enemies.
Aided by a motley cast of street children, a beautiful teenage burglar, and several incompetent constables, Foxe must resort to breaking the law himself to bring the murderer to justice — and work out how thousands of pounds have been stolen from one of Norwich’s leading banks, without them noticing anything was missing.
With the return of Captain Brock from his Grand Tour, Foxe’s growing acceptance by the city’s elite, and wise advice from Mistress Tabby, the Cunning Woman, our hero’s life might be set fair for once — if only he wasn’t quite so willing to become involved with the low life of Norwich in his search for the truth about the missing banker and his wife, Eleanor Melanus.
Was she really as black as she was painted? Or was it simply her ill fortune to be both desirable and not too bright — a woman alternately used and betrayed by the men around her? Either way, Foxe must face down a pitiless criminal enterprise to discover what really went on in the Melanus household … and in the bank next door.
Black as She Is Painted Excerpt:
On the fateful morning, following Maria and Bessie’s night-time excitements, Mr Ashmole Foxe could be found in his library, sitting in front of a blazing fire. The bitter gale outside, which had been rattling his windows all night, showed no sign of abating. The few people who had ventured out on that miserable Wednesday were wrapped in heavy winter coats and scarves. It was Foxe’s usual habit, after breakfasting, to walk to a coffeehouse nearby, then take a turn around Norwich’s vast marketplace for exercise, before attending to whatever business lay before him. That day, however, he had stood at his window, noted the reddened faces and pinched looks of people in the street outside, and decided to stay at home. Now, sitting listlessly before the fire, he was yet again wondering what to do with himself, until some new investigation arose to claim his attention.
Summer had declined into autumn, with an unseasonal run of strong easterly winds blowing across the German Ocean. Winters of late had been long and hard. This year, snow, hardened into ice by many nights of bitter frost, had lingered in hollows and under hedge-banks well into April. The summer, such as it was, had been marred by days and weeks of heavy cloud, dragging down the temperature and causing the farmers to despair of getting even a moderate harvest. As a result, the price of wheat had soared and there were riots and attacks on millers all over the county.
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