Amy Myers is known for her short stories and historical novels featuring Victorian chef Auguste Didier and chimney sweep Tom Wasp. Her contemporary series features classic car detective Jack Colby, and she is currently working on a new 1920s mystery series featuring Nell Drury, chef at Kent’s Wychbourne Court.
Opening a new Andrew Taylor novel brings the certainty not only that pleasure lies ahead but that one will walk straight into his chosen historical period without having to make a conscious effort to leap through time. In his brilliant new novel The Scent of Death, such is the deftness with which the author uses his research that it gives the story an immediacy that adds to its pace.
The first line of the novel tells us that this is ‘the story of a woman and a city’. The city is New York, the year 1778, at a time when those loyal to the British Crown are increasingly at bay from the fast encroaching rebels in the American War of Independence. The Loyalists are struggling to keep a semblance of order against ever greater odds, with what remains of their city surrounded by a lawless no man’s land as the rebels launch attacks on the city with increasing violence.
Into this maelstrom comes Edward Savill, a middle ranking clerk in His Majesty King George III’s American Department, who has been despatched by packet boat from London on a mission to observe what is happening in the city. It proves to require more than mere observation, however. From the moment he arrives at ethe centHeadquarters, Savill finds himself at odds with its head, the suspicious Major Marryot, when he insists on viewing the body of a murdered man and realises that that there may be much more at stake here than there appears.
He lodges with the respected elderly Judge Wintour, his wife and his daughter in law Arabella, the ‘woman of the first sentence. Everywhere however there are secrets, and Savill’s story as he struggles to find his way through the labyrinth into which he is thrust gathers a momentum that takes him into the murky horrors that lie outside Loyalist New York and culminates in a gripping and surprising climax. Finishing an Andew Taylor novel is as satisfying as opening one.