Entering into An Unlamented Death is like stepping into an 18th century drawing room. The environment is civilised and calm and its hero Adam Bascom uses his intelligence and deductive powers to solve the mystery of, “An Inconvenient Corpse.” A young, country doctor, Adam is establishing himself as a respectable and trustworthy member of the community in Aylsham, Norfolk. As he travels the county visiting patients and family, he soon makes some good friends.
But one day, he is shocked to discover the body of a clergyman lying in a churchyard in suspicious circumstances. Strangely, at the inquest, the authorities seem anxious to stress that it was a case of accidental death. Adam cannot understand why the victim, Dr. Nathaniel Ross, Archdeacon of Norwich, was so far from home. Rumours circulate of smugglers in the area and Adam is warned not to pursue his enquiries.
The delight of this book is the characterisation. Sober Adam is contrasted with his erstwhile friend, apothecary Peter Lassimer, a womaniser and gossip. When Adam visits his sociable mother, she introduces him to her elegant, blue-stocking companion, Sophia LaSalle. Meanwhile on his travels, Adam has struck up a friendship with Captain George Mimms, a retired seafarer who keeps his ear to the ground and aids Adam with his investigation.
Though slow in pace, the novel is lightened by the author’s sense of humour. When Adam is called to his mother’s parlour to meet her female friends he feels like, “one of the early Christian martyrs being summoned to face the lions in the arena.” The historical details of the story are impeccable and we learn much of the concerns in coastal areas about the French, following the Revolution and leading up to the Napoleonic war. At times the social history can be too lengthy such as the theatrical interlude in the Feathers Inn Yard, when I was anxious to discover the next event.
It is possible that some readers might find the authentic eighteenth century style of reading difficult to attune too, but I found it a pleasure. I could imagine myself walking in the country towns of Norfolk alongside the inquisitive doctor. Adam Bascom is a likeable detective, even if you sometimes feel you want to shake him, and I look forward to reading about his next adventure in The Code for Killing.