Andrew Taylor answers your questions!

Category: News

Scent of DeathHappy publication date to Andrew Taylor, award-winning author of The Scent of Death, which is out today in paperback. Earlier this year, we asked you to send in your questions for Andrew to answer and we’re pleased to feature your questions (and his answers!) below.

1. Do you research true life crime to get ideas?

Yes. For example, I found the 1824 Fauntleroy banking scandal in the Newgate Calendar, the record of old trials, which gave me an important plot element for The American Boy. In Bleeding Heart Square, I used an old London legend and mixed it with a real-life celebrated Victorian case, the Moat Farm murder, which had a slight connection to my grandmother’s family (nothing too sinister, honestly…) It’s an ongoing process.

2. How/where do you do your research for your historical crime novels? (Michael Chin)

I browse the internet and the London Library. I’m not very methodical about the process, I’m afraid. But I do try to read primary sources where possible, not second-hand accounts. I like to hear the individual voices of the dead – as they come through in their letters, novels, diaries, plays, etc. That seems much more important (and interesting) than what this or that academic has written about a period two hundred years later.

I also try to visit key locations (or similar ones) if possible – eg New York for The Scent of Death – if only to get a true sense of them.

3. If you could interview a murderer, living or dead, in order to gain an insight into their mind, who would you interview and why? (Tricia Clark)

Richard III. The case has interested me for years. I don’t think there’s much doubt now that he was at least complicit in the disappearance and probable murder of his nephews, the Princes in the Tower. But I’d like to know the thought processes that allowed an honourable and loyal brother (of the boys’ father) and uncle to reach the point where that became possible for him.

4. What excites you the most about this period of history and why? (Tricia Clark)

The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are the time when our modern world really began to take shape. Also, people were speaking a sort of English that by and large is easily understood today, as Jane Austen devotees happily testify. So we can get back to them in a very direct and intimate way, through their own words.

The period also saw the American and French revolutions, the Napoleonic Wars, the anti-slavery movement, the birth of feminism, major scientific developments and some very lively men and women. What’s not to like?

But I like to view the past from an unexpected perspective – hence, in The Scent of Death, the decision to show the American War of Independence from the rarely-shown viewpoint of the Loyalist Americans who stayed loyal to King George.

5. Do you ever use names of friends or family in your novels?

Frequently. Both Savill (The Scent of Death) and Shield (The American Boy) are family names, and the Roth Trilogy is full of them. In The Anatomy of Death I generously bestowed fellowships in an eighteenth-century Cambridge college on four of my friends. Even my cats and dogs have appeared in print.

6. Who are your favourite crime writers and why?

I always find this a really tough question! Among the dead, all the obvious ones, from Poe to Conan Doyle, Christie to Chandler. But especially Josephine Tey, who always wrote brilliantly, and never wrote the same book twice. The late lamented Reginald Hill’s novels have given me immense pleasure – literate, witty and enormously perceptive about human nature.

Among the living, well, that’s my secret…

The Scent of Death is out today!

Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival… It’s nearly here!!!

Category: News

Killerreads Crime Ad FINAL

The biggest crime fiction festival in the WORLD kicks off tomorrow, and excitement levels are rising!

As I write this, and as you read it, some of the best & brightest authors in the land are making their way to Harrogate. Some from other lands too – Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls, is flying in from South Africa tomorrow, and will be joined on her panel South of the Equator by antipodeans Helen Fitzgerald & Michael Robotham. This one is taking place on Saturday at 3.30pm.

On Friday, Andrew Taylor (who has just been awarded the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger for an unprecedented third time!) is taking part in a discussion of Victorian Crime: Fact or Fiction, chaired by Sarah Pinborough at 12pm.

On Friday night at 10pm, Charles Cumming will chair a panel for Fleming Fans, featuring Sam Bourne (pseudonym for Jonathan Freedland), JJ Connolly and Gregg Hurwitz. Late night chat amongst Bond fans… sure to be a lark!

On Saturday night, lucky fans get the chance to mingle with their favourite authors at a celebratory themed James Bond Murder Mystery Dinner. It’s 007 Style in honour of the 60th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel Casino Royale. Charles Cumming and SJ Parris are among the author hosts.

Finishing up for HC on Sunday morning we have the legendary Stuart MacBride taking part in the intriguingly entitled panel Slaughtering the Sacred Cows, chaired by Mark Lawson at 10am. Some members of the audience may be blurry eyed, but have no fear, Stuart is worth the effort!

If you are planning to be at the festival at all, please do let us know – we’d love to catch up! For those who can’t make it this time, rest assured I’ll be tweeting live from the event to keep you in the loop.

Scent of Death Reviews

Category: Reviews

Scent of Death

Earlier this year, we offered two Killer Readers the chance to review Andrew Taylor’s book, Scent of Death. Yesterday, Andrew was awarded the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger for Scent of Death, the third time he has won the award! Let’s see what the reviewers thought…

I confess I am addicted to reading historical thrillers. It is a pure escapism for me. There’s nothing better after a long difficult day than to snuggle in bed with a book and get engrossed in the murder mystery set in the times long past. Having thoroughly enjoyed The American Boy by Andrew Taylor, I was excited to get hold of Taylor’s latest novel The Scent of Death.

If you are a fan of the historical thriller genre, you might have come across some pretty mediocre examples of it, where the plot often does not hold water and the characters seem to be totally implausible.

Andrew Taylor has created a gripping detective story, with a convincing plot and compelling characters.

Taylor has chosen a fascinating period of history: the novel is set during the American War of Independence.

The pace is teasingly slow at the start, the style of writing is exceptionally good.

You get the taste of how good the writing is from the very first lines: “This is the story of a woman and a city. I saw the city first, shimmering from afar like the new Jerusalem in the setting sun. I smelled the sweetness of the land and sensed the nearness of green, growing things after the weeks on the barren ocean… It was Sunday, 2nd August 1778”

The story is narrated by Edward Savill, a London clerk from the American Department. He is assigned to New York to investigate the claims of dispossessed loyalists who are evicted from their lands by the republican rebels. You get the insights into the routine horros of the civil war, injustice, internal contradictions, tough conditions and precariousness of life.

Savill is billetted with the respected Wintour family. The enigmatic Arabella Wintour is the heroine who appears in the first sentence of the book and who would propel the story to its unforgettable end.

Savill is a sympathetic and observant story-teller.

The narrative is visually dramatic and marvellously atmospheric, the darkness hiding the danger and proving treacherous, the light – be it shimmering candles or glowing windows – highlighting the facial features and revealing the mysteries. Flashes of light and darkness are symbols of the human nature, as almost each character in the book has a secret they want to hide.

The title of the novel is quite apt, as the scent of death follows you from the beginning, with the memorable description of the “merman” in the sea, the graphic scene of execution, with more deaths to follow, coming to a very poignant attempt of escape of the ice and the most intense and agonizing dénouement.

You can also read this 10/10 review on the reviewer’s blog.

Time for review #2, from Alison Campbell…

Set in 1778, , during the American War of Independence an English clerk, Edward Savill has been ordered to sail to New York to investigate claims of property that’s been plundered from the Loyalists by rebels. After a long, arduous journey it isn’t long until he is swept up a city shrouded by smoke and underlying violence, and he soon finds himself investigating his first murder. Whilst in New York, Edward lodges with the Wintours, a family with their own troubles and dark secrets, and soon he becomes embroiled in their complicated lives. It isn’t long until realises his own life is in danger but doesn’t know who he can really trust.

This is the first time I’ve read anything by this author, despite it being extremely well written and atmospheric, the author failed to capture my attention until after a couple of hundred pages, and for the first time ever I nearly gave up on a book, but I’m so glad I persevered.

As the narrative continued, I was finally drawn into the story and thoroughly enjoyed the book.

I couldn’t help but compare today’s political, social divides and racial prejudices against those of 1778, and how sadly there’s not much change for the better.

The Scent of Death is a satisfying read deep on many levels, which challenges socio- economic views relevant today.

I would give it 4 stars.

Have you read Scent of Death yet? What did you think? It is published in paperback on Thursday this week! Pick it up at Waterstones or any good book retailer.