A Death at Fountains Abbey (Thomas Hawkins 3) by Antonia Hodgson
|A Death at Fountains Abbey (Thomas Hawkins 3) by Antonia Hodgson|
|Category: Crime (Historical)|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Another outing for the 18th century trouble-magnet Tom Hawkins as he's blackmailed into an adventure by royalty. Exciting and historically enthralling to Antonia Hodgson's usual standard, i.e. 5* entertainment.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: August 2016|
|Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton|
|External links: Author's website|
John Aislabie thinks that Thomas Hawkins has arrived at Aislabie's country mansion to investigate murder threats. That's part of it but Thomas' main reason is to carry out a command from Queen Caroline connected to the recent South Sea Bubble scandal. The command was phrased nicely enough, but the sinister intent was clear: Tom's failure or refusal means loss of Kitty, the person he loves most in the world. Those murder threats are a little concerning though…
A new book in Antonia Hodgson Tom Hawkins series is a longed for event and Book 3, A Death at Fountains Abbey, satisfies that longing from start to finish.
The action takes place at the beginning of the 18th century in the wake of the real life 'South Sea Bubble' scandal. In 1711 the South Sea Company was formed, thus named as it was granted sole trading rights with South America. The company's stocks sold quickly and well, being seen as a get rich quick scheme. Then, as with many get rich quick schemes over the centuries, the company grew too fast for its own good. Inevitable collapse followed, rendering the shares worthless and ruining many companies and individuals in the process. Sir John Aislabie actually existed and was one of the prime promoters of the shares so not Mr Popular and the perfect potential victim.
The background may be political but Antonia ensures we aren't bored or bogged down in dry subject matter. Her ability to draw in male and female historical fiction followers alike is demonstrated in many ways, including the way she fleshes out her characters.
The volatile, love-underscored relationship between Tom and Kitty is believable and provides some smiles along with the inevitable crime thriller chewed nails. However the prime example of Antonia's character layering prowess is Sam Fleet.
Tom's ward and the son of an infamous London villain, Sam has seen a lot in his short life, most of which he interprets through his birth-family's ethics (or lack of). Therefore as Tom and Kitty continue to teach him comparative refinements (creating some comedy in the process), he balances it with how his father taught him to see the world. This is something that's further complicated by Tom encouraging Sam's underworld skills for good… well… for a bit better… than his father's purposes.
In the hands of a skilled writer these conditions should make Sam into a complex lad with a refreshing and sometimes dangerous view of the world. The good news is that Antonia is indeed skilled, seamlessly building an interesting psychological profile for someone who steals the scene whenever he appears. She does all this while ensuring we are treated to a brisk, all enveloping read as we watch Tom, Kitty and Sam teeter beside and into danger.
Antonia also continues to be a tease (in a good way). For instance the titular murder doesn't happen until late in the book. Therefore there are some clever sub-plots that feed into the main one in order to help and hinder our attempts to spot the prey as much as do the same for our attempts to spot the murderer.
In common with the other books in the series, this can be read as a stand-alone but you miss so much if you don't read them in order. When compared to the other two, Book 3 is just as great a roller coaster ride that's definitely amongst the top hist-fict around. In fact I'd it could be that any historical fiction enthusiast who isn't a Tom Hawkins fan, has probably just not read any yet. (Nothing like ending on a controversial note!)
(The usual huge thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing us with a copy for review and feeding my Thomas Hawkins habit.)
Further Reading: If you haven't already, please do treat yourself to Thomas Hawkins Book 1: The Devil in the Marshalsea and Book 2, the now spoilerishly entitled The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins. If you're already a fan and would like more of the best fictionalised historical crime around at the moment, we just as heartily recommend a jump to 1837 and The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Death at Fountains Abbey (Thomas Hawkins 3) by Antonia Hodgson at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Death at Fountains Abbey (Thomas Hawkins 3) by Antonia Hodgson at Amazon.com.
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