A killer is at large and Reverend Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor are on the case – but with a family feud raging and a vast inheritance at stake, it’s going to be a challenge. Will they be able to solve the crime and save the villagers of St Mary from the murderer in their midst?
Christmas Day, Kent, 1796
On the frozen fields of Romney Marsh stands New Hall; silent, lifeless, deserted. In its grounds lies an unexpected Christmas offering: a corpse, frozen into the ice of a horse pond.
It falls to the Reverend Hardcastle, justice of the peace at St Mary in the Marsh, to investigate. But with the victim’s identity unknown, no murder weapon and no known motive, it seems like an impossible task. Working along with his trusted friend, Amelia Chaytor, and new arrival Captain Edward Austen, Hardcastle soon discovers there is more to the mystery than there first appeared.
With the arrival of an American family torn apart by war and desperate to reclaim their ancestral home, a French spy returning to the scene of his crimes, ancient loyalties and new vengeance combine to make Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor’s attempts to discover the secret of New Hall all the more dangerous.
The Body in the Ice, with its unique cast of characters, captivating amateur sleuths and a bitter family feud at its heart, is a twisting tale that vividly brings to life eighteenth-century Kent and draws readers into its pages.
And now a little original content from A. J. Mackenzie:
Healing the wounds of war: bringing America and Britain together again after independence
The American War of Independence, which lasted from 1775-1782, was bitter as only a civil war can be. As in most civil conflicts, old friendships and even family relationships counted for nothing. Neighbour turned against neighbour, brothers against brothers, parents against children. People – on both sides – were prepared to commit brutal atrocities against others whom they had once known and loved.
In The Body in the Ice we present a family, the Rossiters, who have been torn apart by the war. Many real-life families suffered a similar fate. The most famous case is that of Benjamin Franklin, committed revolutionary and tireless servant of the republican cause. But his only son, William, was governor of the colony of New Jersey when war broke out, and remained faithful to King George.
Arrested by rebel militiamen, William Franklin refused to renounce his loyalty and was imprisoned. After his release he went to New York, then held by a British garrison, and at the end of the war, like thousands of other loyalists, he moved to Britain. (Tens of thousand of loyalists also emigrated to other British colonies, in Canada or the Caribbean.) William Franklin never returned to America, and he and his father only met once more before Ben died.
To compound the tragedy, William Franklin’s own son rejected his father and joined the rebels. He served as secretary to his grandfather, Ben Franklin, for many years.
The war thus left a huge legacy of bitterness that had somehow to be healed. But not everyone on either side wanted that to happen. In The Body in the Ice, we note that Lord Clavertye lost a brother, killed fighting on the British side, and as a result can barely bring himself to speak to Americans. His case was not unique.
On the American side, the Republican party, led by future president Thomas Jefferson, were resolutely anti-British and anti-monarchy. After the French Revolution of 1789, they strongly favoured the revolutionaries. Some were prepared to support the export of revolution to Britain, or lending military support to the French.
Opposed to them were the Federalists, led by John Adams, the second US president, and Alexander Hamilton. They saw Britain and America as natural allies, and wanted to heal the rift between America and Britain as soon as possible. Nor were they friendly to France. So tense was the situation between America and France that by 1797, the year when The Body in the Ice takes place, the two countries were close to war. The Republicans opposed any conflict with France, opening up a new fissure in American society.
In this uneasy time, with the bloody conflict still fresh in many memories, the Federalists and the more conciliatory British political leaders began groping towards a greater understanding. The first steps were difficult and painful, and as we show in The Body in the Ice, there were many setbacks, for the men of violence did not give up easily. Indeed, by 1812, Britain and America were once again at war and British forces burned the White House in Washington DC in 1814. It took a long time for those painful memories to fade, and for people of good will to prevail.
About the Authors:
A.J. MacKenzie is the pseudonym of Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel, a collaborative Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife duo. Between them they have written more than twenty non-fiction and academic titles, with specialisms including management, medieval economic history and medieval warfare.
The original idea for The Body…series came when the authors were living in Kent, when they often went down to Romney Marsh to enjoy the unique landscape and the beautiful old churches. The authors now live in Devon.
Thank you to A. J. Mackenzie and Bonnier Zaffre for allowing me to part of this blog tour!
It was truly an honour and pleasure to have you on my blog today.
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