If you’re interested in historical fiction set in Colonial America, this was a great read. It blends history, mystery, and interesting characters. Even better, this is a travel story as well, winding from North Carolina all the way to Quebec.
I love when reading coincides with life, and this book was a happy surprise. Last month I visited Quebec for the first time, and walked along the Plains of Abraham, where the British fought and defeated the French. I was not expecting this book about Colonial America to take me there, and yet it did.
Harry Woodyard is a young man in New Bern, North Carolina in the 1750’s. He’s recently married but still in love with his childhood sweetheart, Maddie, whose family was socially out of his league. When a local family is discovered murdered in their beds, it’s Harry’s job as volunteer constable to investigate. And when his old friend is arrested for the crime, finding the murderer becomes a personal mission.
I enjoyed everything about this book. As a character, Harry is interesting — he’s physically tough (he’s a mean fighter with a tomahawk) but smart as well, and far from perfect. He’s struggling with a lot of issues, including being loyal to his new wife when he really loves someone else, and struggling with issues of career and social status. He’s been raised by his mother to move higher in political society, only he’s torn by his own values and wanting to do right by his friends and his wife. His mentor, Justice MacLeod, has drilled into him the rules of social and political etiquette, and he genuinely tries to follow those rules. I found myself frustrated with some of Harry’s decisions at times, but he still kept my respect throughout.
The story moves at a nice pace and never feels weighed down by too much historical detail. In fact, the interactions of the 1750s between the British and the colonials are so fascinating, I would have liked more. Most historical fiction focuses on the revolutionary period, but here the French and Indian War and the British attack on Quebec play a big role in this story.
When I received a review copy of this book, I didn’t realize that author Donald Smith is actually in my hometown of DC. He’s written for a number of magazines and directed and wrote a show for National Public Radio:
As executive co-producer of Radio Expeditions, the Alfred I. duPont award-winning National Geographic – National Public Radio production heard on NPR’s Morning Edition, Donald Smith was editorial director and chief writer for the acclaimed special weekly Radio Expeditions series “The Geographic Century” – great moments of exploration and discovery during the 20th century. Aired weekly on NPR stations. Before coming to National Geographic, he was White House correspondent for Congressional Quarterly, and executive producer of CQ’s weekly Public Television program “Congressional Outlook,” featuring looks at upcoming Capitol Hill issues. Currently he serves on the screening board of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Radio-TV Awards Program.
Beginning as a reporter for the Washington Evening Star, where he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he subsequently was managing editor of The Washington Post Magazine, and then White House correspondent for Congressional Quarterly. From 1978 to 1999 he hosted “Report on Congress,” a daily broadcast summary and analysis of congressional activities, on Washington’s classical music station WGMS-FM.
As a National Geographic senior staff writer from 1987 to 1995, he roamed the world on assignment for the Society’s News Service. His writings and photographs on the subjects of adventure, exploration and geopolitics were syndicated by the Associated Press and the New York Times Syndicate in newspapers and magazines worldwide.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from publisher Pegasus Books in exchange for an honest review. The Constable’s Tale will be published September 15, 2015.