The Scent of Death, Hardback
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


*WINNER of the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award 2013* 'Andrew Taylor wrote superb historical fiction long before Hilary Mantel was popular' Daily Telegraph From the No.1 bestselling author of THE AMERICAN BOY comes a new historical thriller set during the American War of Independence. 'This is the story of a woman and a city. I saw the city first, shimmering from afar like the new Jerusalem in the setting sun.

It was Sunday, 2nd August 1778.' Edward Savill, a London clerk from the American Department, is assigned to New York to investigate the claims of dispossessed loyalists caught on the wrong side of the American War of Independence.

Surrounded by its enemies, British Manhattan is a melting pot of soldiers, profiteers, double agents and a swelling tide of refugees seeking justice from the Crown.

Savill lodges with the respected Wintour family: the old Judge, his ailing wife and their enigmatic daughter-in-law Arabella.

The family lives in limbo, praying for the safe return of Jack Wintour, Arabella's husband, who is missing behind rebel lines.

The discovery of a body in the notorious slums of Canvas Town thrusts Savill into a murder inquiry. But in the escalating violence of a desperate city, why does one death matter? Because the secret this killing hides could be the key to power for whoever uncovers it...




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Review by

Not sure what to make of this one. I enjoyed Andrew Taylor's <I>The Anatomy of Ghosts</I>, but I don't really know enough about eighteenth century America to appreciate the characters and story here. I did get a clear sense of the loyalist/rebel divide, and Taylor's attention to detail and atmosphere brought early New York to life (especially Canvas Town), but I kept mentally translating the setting into mid-Victorian England. In fact, the narrator reminded me of the self-satisfied bachelors in <I>The Tenant of Wildfell Hall</I> and <I>My Cousin Rachel</I>, who underestimate the women they seek to protect. I saw the twist in 'Mrs Arabella's' tale coming a mile off, but the tangled web that Savill walked into was rather too convoluted to keep track of. Not a riveting read, but beautifully told as always by Andrew Taylor.

Review by

The author artfully mixes historical fact and fiction with a tantalizing tale of mystery. New York is a city in virtual captivity in late 1778. Although the British hold the streets for the crown, the city is surrounded by American rebel troops. Gangs of marauders roam a veritable no man’s land between the two armies. Edward Savill, a clerk for the British government’s, American Department based in London, is thrust into this swarming hive of soldiers, local citizens, and refugees from the surrounding countryside. He is tasked with recording the claims of depredation perpetrated against these loyal colonists by the rebels. Many have lost all their property and possessions to these rabble in the name of Congress and the revolution. Savill soon becomes embroiled with the family who has given him room and board while he is in New York. The lovely, but aloof Mrs. Arabella is a nagging reminder of the wife he has left behind months ago in England. Arabella’s long missing husband returns from fighting the rebels, yet he needs much recuperating from serious wounds he received at the front. Savill notices all is not well between the reunited couple. His natural attraction to Arabella leaves Edward with a certain distaste for her domineering husband. Shortly after a recent acquaintance of Arabella’s shows up dead, Savill is set upon by brigands. Were they out to merely to take his purse or his life? The mystery twists and turns as Savill tries to determine who is after him. Why has he, a newly arrived official from England, been targeted for death? Could Arabella’s husband want Savill out of the picture or is it a deeper mystery involving Arabella as well? Book provided for review by HarperCollins Publishers.

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