Saturday, 30 January 2016

THE CODE FOR KILLING by William Savage

5 out of 5 stars

18th century murder mystery

On Amazon UK HERE

Reviewed by me as part of Rosie Amber's Review Team

I loved William Savage's debut novel, An Unlamented Death, so was eager to read the next in the series.  The Code for Killing re-acquaints us with 18th century Norfolk doctor Adam Bascom, who has, once more, become involved in a murder mystery, this time to do with a possible spy passing information to the French.  I enjoyed this book even more than the first; it was one of those I was disappointed to finish. 
Kings Lynn, Norfolk, 18th century.

 As with the previous book, the murder mystery itself plays a second part, for me, though it's well thought out, intriguing and not predictable.  What keeps me turning the pages is the prose itself, a joy to read.  The main body of the novel is conversation, and the characters are so beautifully illustrated by their dialogue alone that they need little else to bring them to life.  I was pleased to renew my acquaintance with Adam's apothecary friend Peter Lassimer, a cheerful ladies' man, with the eccentric Captain Mimms, and his mother's sparky companion, Sophia LaSalle.  New characters are introduced, too: the lovely Daniel Foucard, an aristocrat on his deathbed who befriends Adam, and delightful incidentals such as 'lady of the night' Molly Hawkins, and sailors Peg and Dobbin.  Forming the backdrop of the story is the unrest amongst the common people of Norfolk due to the greedy and illegal practices of a certain miller, and the dissatisfaction that results from the war with France.  Times were as uncertain and dangerous then as now...
18th century Norfolk

When reading this book I became completely absorbed in the time and the characters; however, I did find myself wishing for more descriptive detail.  I am familiar with some of the landmarks, such as the Maid's Head Hotel, Gentleman's Walk and Cow Tower in Norwich, and also the Black Boys in Aylsham, so I could imagine the settings, but for anyone who doesn't know Norfolk it might not be so easy to do so.  For instance, on Adam's journeys to London I was looking forward to reading about what the landscape was actually like between Norwich and London.  What was the inside of a Drury Lane theatre like?  A London Inn?  The inside of the seedy Lampson's cafe?  How about the road from Norwich out to the coast?  Historical fiction addicts like me love to read about times gone by because we want to immerse ourselves in the past—so we want to know what these people of over 200 years ago would have seen!  The same with the insides of the houses, the day to day activities.  There was more description as the book went on, but I yearned for yet more!  I am not a one for pages and pages of description of soft furnishings and clothes, but a little more creation of atmosphere would have made me enjoy this book even more. 

Despite this very minor complaint (which I am sure would not be an issue for many), I have no hesitation in giving the book 5 stars; I think more description would take William Savage from being an extremely good writer of historical fiction into a truly great one.

An Unlamented Death by William Savage reviewed HERE


The Fabric of Murder by William Savage reviewed HERE


  1. Lovely review Terry you can feel your enthusiasm for the book in your review.

    1. Oh good - I had that 'what do I do now?' feeling afterwards, it was one of those! So much that I've had to take a break from the review team list and read Mr Savage's other book... ;)

  2. Sounds really good and I’ve made a note to add them to my list. Great review :)

    1. Thanks, Cathy - going to immerse myself in his other book, shortly! x

  3. I love the sound of this cast of characters Terry, they sound like great fun :-)

    1. William Savage has become such a favourite, G! In fact I've just finished his other book, just about to review :)