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VINE VOICEon 2 April 2013
This has been my Easter reading: a chance to plunge once more into a time and place I know nothing about, in the company of one of the absolute masters of our genre - in fact, one of the masters of fiction, who takes the genre boundaries and bends them to breaking with a style and quiet intelligence that leave me always, wondering why I bother when there's this kind of greatness out there for people to buy.

The American Boy was his breakout and anyone who hasn't read his tale of the young Edgar Allen Poe's boyhood in England should put it top of their reading list. I was struck then by a sense of time and place that took me deeper, more powerfully into an era than anything else I'd ever read. There's a quality to the dialogue that feels so rawly authentic; the language, the pace, the careful courtesies that hide murder and mayhem.. nobody manages this era with this kind of skill.

The Scent of Death has that same powerful evocation. It's set in 1778 in New York, an enclave of the English Crown at the height of the Revolution; a place almost under siege, that depends on ships from England for provisions, while wrestling with the growing distinction between Americans and English. Into this comes Edward Savill, a Clerk from the American Office who nurtures hopes of preferment if he does his job well and whose slow realisation that he has, instead, been sidelined by his wife's cousin, a man who `does not like her more than half' (which is to say, he despises her) , who is his boss.
Because this is a historical thriller, Samuel is present when a body is fished out of the water as his boat comes in and another is found soon after his arrival. His dogged investigation of their deaths leads him deeper into the underlayers of this so-careful society with its so-careful conventions and its hovering-on-poverty existence that runs side by side with the genuinely destitute slaves who live in the ghetto by the water. There are moments of real danger, and a slowly revealed secret that blows everything else out of the water. And right at the end, in sails HMS Lydmouth, which will mean something only to those familiar with Andrew's series of the same name, but it's such a beautiful, understated finale to a beautiful, not-at-all understated book. 5* without question.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 7 March 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an historical novel set during the American War of Independence. Much of its action focuses on Manhattan, the last area of the United States under the control of King George. Into Manhattan flood all those British loyalists dispossessed by the expanding rebel armies.

The story is about Edward Savill, a clerk sent from London to investigate the claims for compensation by the colonists who have suffered losses. Even before his arrival in Manhattan, it is clear that nothing is really as it first appears and he soon finds himself embroiled in murder investigations and is tempted into affairs which are, perhaps, best left undiscovered.

As his tour of duty is extended and extended he finds himself involved with the family of Wintour family and when the husband returns from the army he is inveigled into undertaking a mission into enemy territory, the real purpose of which he could not have guessed at. When Savill receives bad news about his marriage and his posting finally arrives from England, he at last learns the truth and how in the fires of conflict, all is at the mercy of the armies who require gold to help them continue to wage war.

This is an excellent novel with brilliant attention to historical detail and to the characterisation of individuals. The slave trade and slavery in general is also explored and the inhumanity of lovers torn apart, mothers separated from their babies and the terrible crime of black daring to love white against the backdrop of the slave trade is laid bare in dramatic fashion.

The author creates a compelling picture of revolutionary America in the late eighteenth century.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This novel begins in 1778, during the American War of Independence, when Edward Savill is sent from London to a besieged New York in order to investigate the claims of dispossessed loyalists. Savill's passage has been arranged by his patron, and the uncle of his wife, Mr Rampton. Befriended on the voyage by the kindly Mr Noak and lodged with friends his patron, Judge Wintour and his family, the commission seems a positive step in Savill's career. Although he misses his young daughter, he is determined to make the best of things. However, from the first, things do not seem as straitforward as they first seem. Even before the ship has made port a body is fished from the river and, by the end of the first day, another body is found - that of Mr Pickett, who visited the Wintours.

This is a slow moving, atmospheric story, with the author painting a realistic picture of a provincial New York, swarming with refugees and under attack. Edward Savill is a well meaning, gentle man, who tries to do his best to make sense of events as they threaten to overwhelm him. Who killed Mr Pickett, why does the Wintour's beautiful daughter in law not want to return to her family home and who is the child that Savill hears crying at night? What is his role in this city and who should he trust? One of the strongest parts of the narrative is when Savill ventures beyond the city of New York, into a country lawless and at war. I have never read anything by Andrew Taylor before, but I was very impressed with this novel and will certainly read more of his work. This book has a great deal of depth and would be ideal for a book club read, with much to discuss.
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The Scent Of Death is set in New York during the American War Of Independence, where Edward Savill, an English clerk, is sent to New York to investigate claims by Loyalists that they have lost property. Soon Edward Savill is thrown into a murder enquiry after a body is discovered, and more secrets and danger await him...

I have never read a book by Andrew Taylor before this, so I wasn't sure what to expect. However, I really quite enjoyed this book! Having never read anything about The American War Of Independence, I must admit I did find it a little bit hard to get into the story at first, but within a few chapters I had settled into the narrative.

The descriptions in the book were very well-written. As soon as Savill arrived in America I could sense the atmosphere, and everything was so vivid that I could picture every single clearly in my mind. It was as if I'd been transported back in time, wow. Andrew Taylor has clearly done his research and it shows, for me the descriptions and setting were my favourite part of the story.

There is a lot to devour and uncover in this book. The Scent Of Death is brilliant for fans of historical novels or anyone with interest in the American War Of Independence. Not only that, but there is mystery, adventure, murder and suspense, making this an intriguing and compelling read.
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on 24 June 2016
This is the first book I've read by Andrew Taylor, and it won't be the last! Set in New York at the time of the American Revolutionary War, it gives a gritty and realistic account of what life was like set in a historical mystery thriller. You can feel the biting cold of the severe winter, smell the poor sanitation and be gripped by the violence of the time. Savill, the main protagonist, is a British civil servant drawn into an illicit affair with an American femme fatale who has to resort to extreme violence to surviive. A very readable and gripping tale.
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I very much enjoyed Andrew Taylor's The Anatomy of Ghosts and was looking forward to this one. It is not as good, but is still an enjoyable read.

Set in New York in 1779-79 during the War of Independence, the plot concerns Edward Savill, an English civil servant sent from London to deal with claims by Loyalists who have lost property during the fighting. Narrated in the first person by Savill the story develops into a mystery and an adventure in which he and his acquaintances become embroiled and endangered. I won't give away any plot - I wouldn't have wanted to know more than that before I started - but it is a period mystery/thriller which began well, dragged somewhat and then picked up for the last two hundred pages or so.

Taylor creates a very good sense of place and of period. The privations of a freezing winter are especially well done and I thought this a real strength of the book. His prose is easy to read and preserves a good sense of the language of the time while not sticking rigidly to it: a difficult balance which he pulls off very well. The plot unfolds at a leisurely pace, and while this can be very effective, I did feel that there wasn't quite enough real content to carry the book for quite long periods in the central section and I thought it could do with being a good deal shorter.

Nevertheless, I think this is a generally involving and enjoyable book, and I recommend it, especially if you like historical fiction.
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on 28 June 2013
From 'The American Boy' onwards I have really enjoyed Andrew Taylor's books. However, with this book I feel he has reached the heights of that last 'American' novel and it certainly deserves its short listing in this years Crime Writers Association prize.
A period that is not often covered in contemporary fiction, the time of the American war of independence, is vivdly brought to life through the eyes of a young man sent out to New York as an emissary of the crown. It has everything you expect from Andrew Taylor, an intriguing, engrossing plot, superbly drawn characters some of them with dark depths and an unexpected resolution. One of those novels I really did not want to finish that took me to the heart of a time and helped me see what it was like to be alive then as well as a being a fascinating mystery thriller.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book proves that good writing, excellent description and an interesting historical setting only works when there's a decent plot told with a sense of momentum. The plot in this book is so paper thin that I had sussed out the main points by page 200, but had to follow our rather dull hero through another 300 or so before he finally caught on.

The book covers a period of a couple of years, during most of which nothing at all happens. Odd little flurries of action interrupt vast yawning gulfs of description, often given in incredible detail. The main protagonist, Edward Savill, is a strangely passionless creature while the heroine, Mrs Arabella Wintour, is cold and pretty unlikeable.

Having said that, the author does manage to paint a believable picture of New York at the end of the American War of Independence and some of the peripheral characters were well drawn and sympathetic. Taylor is particularly strong on conveying the privations suffered by the inhabitants of New York as a result of both the war and the extreme weather conditions. But I'm afraid, for me, none of that made up for the lack of drive in the story and the fact that I didn't feel emotionally involved with the main characters. A disappointingly average read.
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VINE VOICEon 11 February 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
America 1778. The War of Independence is in full swing. New York is loyal to British Rule and Edward Savill has been sent by the American Department to resolve property issues. A murder occurs, and the guilty party is discovered and punished.... or is he..... or is there more than meets the eye?

Whilst an interesting (for period detail) read, the story lacks pace. I had read 200 pages, when if felt [at least] double that. You keep reading because it is so well written, but it is very very very slow.... In fact the middle 200 pages are a bit like wading through treacle at times; you are screaming "get on with it!".

I agree with another reviewer here; "well written, but dull".
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 February 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was looking forward to reading Andrew Taylor's latest novel for several reasons. I have read and enjoyed his work before and, being a fan of modern day New York, was keen to learn a bit about its early history. I was not disappointed.

Our 'hero' Edward Savill, a clerk for the American Department in London, is sent to New York in 1778 during the American War of Independence, to help sort out compensation claims for loyalists whose properties have been lost to the rebel armies. Savill is billeted with the Wintour family and becomes embroiled in their less than straightforward lives. Along with the underlying current of violence and cloak and dagger espionage runs a more touching story of love, loss and heartbreak. Few of the people he has dealings with are what they seem and Savill begins to realise that those he thought were friends and colleagues may not be so. We are kept guessing to the end. A list of characters at the beginning would have been helpful (as in some of his other books) and it would have been nice to have a map of New York and environs of the time.

It took a while to get comfortable with the 18th century writing style but once conquered, became wholly appropriate for this novel. Likewise the pace at the beginning is a little slow but is more than made up for by the wonderfully atmospheric descriptions of New York during those troubled times. The prose conjured up a mood of stifling discomfort and starvation with descriptions of intense summer heat and bitter winter cold. Death is an everyday occurrence for the poor, of whom there are legion, from the escaped slave enclave of Canvas Town to the streets full of brothels to the destitute farmers of the outlying districts.

The plot unfolds against a backdrop where communications with England can take as much as six weeks and forensic science is not even a glimmer in the eye. Crimes go unsolved and innocent people are hung to further the ends of those who hold the reins. Throughout, our hero tries to retain his decency which is sorely tried on many occasions. I look forward to hearing more about Edward Savill. I am also drawn to find out more about the history of New York,and will look upon it with new eyes the next time I visit.
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