If Two Are Dead

Written by Jonathan Carriel
Review by Laura Staley

Thomas  Dordrecht is perplexed.  Daniel Sproul, a partner in the shipping firm he works for, has been found dead on the street.  But the dead man had been in good health, and his body bears no marks of sudden illness or violence. Thomas puts this question aside when he travels to the Caribbean on the firm’s business.  But the mystery follows him there and back; if Sproul was murdered, how was it done?  Thomas hunts the answers to this puzzle from New York to the Caribbean and back, from Paulus Hook to Philadelphia. On the way he discovers a complicated plot that has killed more than one man.

Set in 1762, this well-researched book will appeal to anyone who is interested in American history.  The mystery is a substantial portion of the story, but the depictions of commerce in an arena controlled by strict British colonial law, of social life complicated by slavery, and of family secrets in a time when people could easily disappear for decades, are almost more interesting—a good thing, since both the method and the motive of the murder itself are underexplored. As a mystery, this book has its flaws but it is still an enjoyable read.  Recommended.