The Scent of Death

Written by Andrew Taylor
Review by Ilysa Magnus

Edward Savill, a clerk with the American Department, arrives in New York from London during the Revolutionary War. His job is to investigate claims of dispossessed loyalists and to compensate them for their losses. What Savill finds when he lands in lower Manhattan is a virtual cesspool of criminals and refugees, gross manipulators and power-hungry politicos who use their position to gain wealth and status.

Savill moves in with a distinguished loyalist family only soon to become embroiled in unexplained deaths and what appear to be incomprehensibly disparate events. Soon enough, Savill becomes the target of a sometimes unseen, unknown enemy as he attempts to unravel the mystery of why a loyalist soldier has been found dead. The mystery deepens and becomes more convoluted as its tentacles reach out around Savill to entrap him and those whose lives he touches. Added to this mix is a romantic interest which is inconvenient, to say the least, and the erosion of his own domestic situation at home.

This is a nifty, complex tale written by an enormously talented mystery writer who crafts a resolution both unpredictable and shocking. Fascinating sidebars concern, among other issues, the relationship between slaves and masters in Revolutionary War New York City. The city itself becomes personified in its desperation – its horrible winters, its filthy streets, its poor and downtrodden. There is nothing pretty about New York or those who inhabit it in this highly recommended, densely plotted murder mystery. A great ride!