This is the second book in a series that started with Speak the Nightbird. Both books take place in colonial America and feature Matthew Corbett as an investigator for a number of mysteries. The two books also have a similar structure with several smaller mysteries tangentially related to the larger overall mystery being solved throughout the books and leading to the final exciting conclusion.
The element I like most in both books is the atmosphere. This book takes place in New York in a time before the revolution and not long after the British had appropriated the city from the Dutch. It’s in its infancy, looking towards London with envy, wanting everything it has. The only habit it has picked up from its more metropolitan cousin however is having a brutal serial murderer on the loose. McCammon creates the flavor of this early New York and the colonial countryside in an effortless way without seeming to try. He is also quite good at notching up the creepy vibe when called for which makes this novel a little something more than a mystery.
McCammon can create some intriguing characters as well. The city coroner who becomes violently ill at the sight of a corpse and yet still has an innate and macabre fascination with the object of his profession was especially interesting. Oddly, I’m not sure I would include Matthew Corbett in the list of characters I think are pretty awesome. I do like reading about him and following him around but he’s so dang self-righteous and so insistent about twisting the knife when he is proven right that I can’t entirely like him.
My complaints with the book are few. McCammon keeps things in 18th century character except out of the blue he will drop these anachronistic phrases in the mix like talking about a horse “hauling ass”. I guess I don’t know, maybe they used that slang all the time in the 18th century. But the point is that whenever a particularly modern slang word or phrase was used it pulled me out of the narrative and had me wondering if maybe they did say such things. I also wouldn’t have complained if the book had been a little shorter.
Overall a good mystery set in a fascinating time and setting and done well. I’ll be looking to get my hands on the next book in the series Mister Slaughter.