On July 4th in the United States, look into the skies and the ubiquitous fireworks will demonstrate how Americans feel about their War for Independence. We still honor George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and the other great men who led us through a war against Great Britain so that we might govern ourselves. As an American, I have always considered the war through the eyes of the patriots fighting for their freedom against the mighty British Empire. I have never imagined what it must have looked like to an Englishman. Until now.
The Scent of Death is a book set in the middle of that war, specifically the British-held New York City of 1778. The story follows the unique adventures of Edward Savill, who has been sent from London to investigate the claims of people who remained loyal to the crown, thereby losing everything and becoming refugees. A body is found his first day there, and that murder shapes his life while in New York and his destiny after his return to England.
The New York of 1778, historically depicted by Andrew Taylor, is nowhere near what it is today. This makes the story all the more interesting as you consider how much that city has changed over the centuries. Taylor also provides enough twists and turns and puzzles and adventures and complex relationships to satisfy even the most ardent mystery lover.
One thing to note, however, is that it is written in the style of the 18th century and the characters certainly speak that way. This is necessary because the point of view is a first-person narrative told by Mr. Savill, himself. The book is not difficult to understand and it does not abound with archaic words. If anything, the style and language serve to transport you back in time so that you can smell the scent of death in war-torn New York along with Edward Savill.