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The fourth in this series about the Dutch-Jewish Pieter Tonneman family (The High Constable, 1994, etc.) returns to the New York of 1675, where Tonneman lives and prospers with second wife Racqel and their several children. Now under English role, the town's few thousand inhabitants are a mixture of Dutch, English, Native American, African--both slave and free--and a tiny enclave of Jews. When the governor's valuable horse--a girl from the King--is brutally mutilated, First Councillor Nick De Sille calls on Tonneman, an ex-sheriff, to find the culprit. In debt to De Sille through his friend and business partner Ten Eyck, Tonneman must, in honor, accede. His mission is soon complicated by the violent death of Edward Davies, daft stepson of trader Jacob Broome; an unknown corpse buried in the Jewish cemetery; the mutilation of another horse; and a bloody attack on English schoolmaster Crabtree. Racqel, meanwhile, has honed the medical skills taught her by her late physician father, and has seemingly cured the dying butcher Asser Levy, provoking talk of witchcraft. She becomes the target of two unrelated local crazies and, in the end, proves crucial to the success of her husband's assignment. Mystery and suspense are buried here beneath a burden of wayward incidents, unimportant characters, and fussy domestic and historical detail. The account of Racqel's banishment from, and reentry into, the Jewish community is intriguing; the rest is a confusing bore.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Bantam