The Body in the Ice by A J Mackenzie **BlogTour Guest Post**

Today on Books, Life and Everything, it is my pleasure to be the next stop on the Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of The Body in the Ice on April 20th. This is the second book in the Hardcastle and Chaytor Mystery series.

The follow-up to the critically acclaimed The Body On The Doorstep, this next instalment sees Reverend Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor reunite to solve a case set in the Romney Marshes on Christmas Day, 1796, and A. J. MacKenzie recreates vividly the atmosphere of both the place and its history.

More about the book: 

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.
I am delighted to have an exclusive author post by A. J. Mackenzie on the East Coast volunteers and a real life historical figure who makes several appearance in the book: Jane Austen's brother, Edward Austen Knight.

Welcome to Books, Life and Everything and over to you!

A J Mackenzie:

Jane Austen's brother: Edward Austen Knight and the East Kent Volunteers

Not the least surprising thing about the children of George and Cassandra Austen, given the times in which they were born, is that all eight of them survived to adulthood. Two of her brothers, Frank and Charles, joined the navy, both rising to the rank of admiral. A third brother, Henry, dabbled briefly and ultimately unsuccessfully in banking before becoming a clergyman; he would later baptise the infant Prince George, the last king of Hanover, in a hotel in Berlin. As you do. And, of course, we all know what happened to young Jane.

    The third son, Edward, had a rather different career. George Austen was a clergyman who held the living of Steventon in Hampshire, and his patron was the owner of the local estate, Thomas Knight. Thomas and his wife Catherine were very much taken with young Edward, who as a polite, cheerful, presentable boy. The Knights had money and lands in Hampshire and Kent, including the fine house of Godmersham, but no children. So, with the consent of the Austens, the Knights adopted Edward as their heir. They paid for his education and, when he was eighteen, sent him on that essential rite of passage for young gentlemen, the Grand Tour.

    Thomas Knight died in 1794, and Catherine decided to move out of Godmersham, handing over the house to Edward. He had married the previous year, and clearly in need of a bigger house (he and his wife went on to produce eleven children). Godmersham became a happy family home, much beloved of Jane Austen who visited often; she found the library at Godmersham a congenial place to write. 

    When Britain and France went to war in 1793, it was clear that the small British regular army could not hope to defend Britain’s shores unaided. In 1794 the Volunteer Act was passed, authorising the raising of local units of part-time soldiers. Rather like the Home Guard in World War II, the Volunteers did not serve in the field; they carried on with their civilian occupations, were issued with muskets and uniforms which they kept at home, drilled several times a week, and stood ready to be called to arms in event of an emergency.

    Edward Austen became captain of the Godmersham company of the East Kent Volunteers, and served in this capacity right through to the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815. As such, from our point of view, he was in a perfect position. Magistrates and lords lieutenant could call out the volunteers in case of any emergency, not just invasion but civil disturbances – or, indeed, to hunt for enemy spies. Reverend Hardcastle, justice of the peace on Romney Marsh, needs the assistance of the military when things get out of hand. Captain Austen and his men are there to march to the rescue.

    We look forward to getting much better acquainted with the young captain and his family in future. And who knows? Hardcastle and his sister Calpurnia came from the same part of Hampshire as the Austens, and Calpurnia even once game the young Jane some advice about writing Gothic novels (advice which was completely ignored). Perhaps Miss Austen may one day desire to pay a visit to the Marsh. 

Marianne:  As a self-confessed Janeite, it was fascinating to read about one of Jane Austen's siblings. Thank you!

About the Author
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.

Follow A.J. Mackenzie on Twitter, on their Website, on Facebook and Pinterest.

Thanks to Imogen Sebba and the publishers, Bonnier Zaffre, for a place on the Blog Tour. 
Check out the rest of the Tour! 


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