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The Scent of Death    by Andrew Taylor order for
Scent of Death
by Andrew Taylor
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

It is not often that Americans can read about the Revolutionary War from a British point of view. The Scent of Death presents this intriguing perspective. Edward, a clerk newly posted to New York from London, must sort out the claims of loyalists whose property and land have been seized by the rebels. Held by the British, New York has become a refuge for royalists seeking redress, and although the Crown wants to bring justice, there is much that stands in the way. Normal bureaucratic and political issues are even more difficult when correspondence about these matters must travel by ship 3000 miles forth and back.

All of this makes for a difficult situation for Edward, who is trying to get used to America and its customs. Slavery, for example, is new and not very understandable to him. Then there is the weather - either too hot or too cold - and the lack of supplies. Edward is fortunate to find housing with a respected family somewhat down on its fortune. As he gets to know the family's tragic history, he becomes more and more sympathetic to the mysterious young woman of the house, Arabella. His sense of honor causes him to find out more than he bargains for and leads him on a circular journey that provides us with a grim picture of the devastation in the countryside around New York.

The opening sentence of the novel reads: 'This is the story of a woman and a city.' Actually, I think the woman's story is very subservient to the more general story of the royalists trying to survive in New York at that time. We never really get a full picture of Arabella, and it takes an awfully long time for the pieces of her family story to fall into place, but while waiting we receive an extremely well-written picture of the conditions in that city in the late 1770s.

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