“THE FABRIC OF MURDER”: Ashmole Foxe 1
Norwich in the 1760s is one of the most prosperous cities in England, its wealth coming from a booming trade in the famous “Norwich Stuffs”, fine worsted cloth, often richly dyed and embroidered.
When a leading cloth-manufacturer is murdered and his business seems on the brink of collapse, people fear a forced sale of his business will ruin the trade for everyone else. Questions multiply. Who killed him, why had he been stockpiling cloth for months and who is the stranger now trying to buy up all the dead man’s stock?
With no organised police force beyond constables and night-watchmen, the mayor and aldermen turn to Mr. Ashmole Foxe to help solve these riddles. Mr. Foxe is another enigma, a man who claims to be a bookseller, lives in grand style, dresses like a dandy and has the morals of an alley-cat. With no firm clues to go on and every sign the dead man himself had been hiding many secrets, Mr Foxe sets out to do as the City Fathers want. Follow this wily hero through Norwich’s teeming 18th-century streets ask he seeks out the answers.
“DARK THREADS OF VENGEANCE”: Ashmole Foxe 2
Mr Ashmole Foxe, Georgian dandy, bookseller and confidential investigator, is under pressure. The mayor wants him to find the murderer of a prominent merchant and banker before the city is crippled by financial panic, Alderman Halloran is hounding him to solve the theft of some of his favourite books and his much-loved companions, the Catt sisters, have left Norwich, unlikely to return.
What could the self-righteous and rigidly teetotal Joseph Morrow have done to provoke someone to murder him, his body, reeking of cheap brandy, left in a rough area haunted by sailors and prostitutes?
As he negotiates the treacherous back-streets of Norwich, Ashmole Foxe must expose the killer before the Morrow Bank collapses, find the book-thief, return the alderman’s books, and discover the dark secret linking one of the the city’s grandest merchant houses to the wretches that drag out their brief existence in the slums.
“THIS PARODY OF DEATH”: Ashmole Foxe 3
Eighteenth-century Norwich bookseller and dandy, Ashmole Foxe, is asked by the local bellringers to look into the death of their Tower Captain, found in the ringing chamber with his throat cut. Since the victim had a foul temper, was a notorious miser, a killjoy and a recluse, there’s no shortage of suspects.
Yet with everyone lying about themselves and their relationships with the dead man, Foxe knows it will take even more cunning than usual to dig out the truth. On top of all that, he discovers nothing about the victim is what it seems. He must dig into the man’s past as well as his present to separate truth from pretence and the genuine from the fake. Bit by bit, Mr Foxe reveals a tale of greed, bitter family strife and unexpected love, a tale that ended in the church tower with an explosion of anger and an unexpected death.
“BAD BLOOD WILL OUT”: Ashmole Foxe 4
Ashmole Foxe is approached by the mayor of Norwich and the manager of one of its oldest theatres, both wanting him to investigate sudden, baffling deaths. Foxe loathes the theatre manager, so he’ll have nothing to do with his tale of ghostly apparitions and the murder of an alcoholic, has-been actor. Instead, he turns to the mayor’s request — to resolve the killing of a rich merchant. The trouble is Foxe can’t quite put the theatre mystery out of his mind.
Both cases contain inexplicable events. How did someone stab the merchant as he was hosting a grand masquerade ball surrounded by his guests — without anyone seeing what happened? What has an actress dead for twenty years to do with the murder of someone who shouldn’t even have been in the current cast?
Urged on by cryptic messages from a local Cunning Woman and supported by his extended household and the street-children of the city, Foxe is soon entangled in webs of secrecy and deceit going back into the past and outwards as far as London itself.
“Bad Blood Will Out” is set in the fascinating world of 1760s England. The story shows how betrayal, greed, ambition and grief lead to a toxic mix of thwarted passions, grim obsession and slow-burning hatred. Before the end, it’s going to bring Foxe face-to-face with the most callous, cold-hearted and remorseless killer he has ever known.
“Black as She’s Painted”: Ashmole Foxe 5
Samuel Melanus, a rich goldsmith turned banker, goes missing, and his promiscuous wife is found naked and strangled on her own bed. It’s 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. 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.
Follow Foxe as he faces down a pitiless criminal enterprise to discover what really went on in the Melanus household … and in the bank next door.
“A Sickness in the Soul”: Ashmole Foxe 6
“A Sickness in the Soul” 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.
The England of the time is a land where outward wealth and display hide simmering political and social tensions.
Into this comes a series of murders in Norwich, which was still the second or third largest city in England at the time. At the outset, all appear straightforward to unravel. An aristocrat is killed after a public row at a masked ball; an elderly, reclusive scholar with a young wife is murdered in his own library; and there is a seemingly senseless professional assassination of a homeless vagrant. In each case, everyone looks to Ashmole Foxe to unravel the answers and bring the killer or killers to justice. Those answers turn out to be far messier and more complex than anyone imagines.