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Being named Royal Constable and "leaving behind for good the brawlers and pranksters and wenchers he previously had kept company with" gives young North Carolina planter Harry Woodyard a chance to advance in Craven County society during the French and Indian War.

What Harry can't suspect is that his duties will fetch him up on the Plains of Abraham as British Gen. Wolfe takes Quebec. Smith’s spun a rollicking good yarn in his debut novel. Harry’s pursuing the murderer of a local plantation family, heading over the Colonial border to Williamsburg, then Annapolis and Boston, and finally to the Quebec army camp. Comet Elijah, last of the fearsome Tuscarora tribe, has been jailed as the killer. It was Comet Elijah and Natty, Harry’s grandfather, who raised the boy, teaching him woodcraft and the ways of the world. Harry’s certain his friend isn’t guilty, especially since he found an inscribed Masonic pin at the murder scene. Smith’s sketches of life in 1759 are superb: "small beer" for breakfast, rogues on the post road, and notes on how plantations flourished behind the isolating Outer Banks. Harry’s left his new wife, Toby with the "pretty brown eyes," waiting in North Carolina, and his letters home—"My deareft wife, I pray thif letter finds you & ye Plantation well"—provide another window into Colonial life. Harry meets Washington—"We are all proud of our George for his conduct at Monongahela"—and teenage Jefferson and learns why his first love, Maddie, daughter of New Bern’s chief justice, threw him over for a Virginia plantation scion, Richard Ayerdale. Seesawing between ambition and inferiority, Harry meets governors, generals, and aristocracy, relying on his treasured tome, Rules of Civilty & Decent Behaviour for guidance.

Top-notch historical fiction, authentic in character and setting, laced with a mystery and a bit of international intrigue, right up to the whipsaw conclusion.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-60598-861-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Pegasus Crime
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2015


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