3.5 out of 5 stars
Just of the latest boat from the UK in 1746, New York is a Mr Richard Smith. Gaining entry to a counting-house, he presents the proprietor, Mr Lovell, with a demand for £1000. Staggered by the amount, he is not helping his cause by refusing to explain any details as to why he needs that amount of money and what the purpose of it will be for. Lovell initially doubts its legitimacy but a little more research seems to prove that it is a genuine order, helped by Smith claiming that proof will be following on the next ship due, so they decide not to honour it until that point.
His arrival adds fuel to the fire that there are spying and other nefarious things happening and Smith quickly becomes the centre of attention for all the citizens of the city. This notoriety means that he begins to get into lots of scrapes and suffers the misfortune of being robbed, almost killed, be challenged to a duel and be arrested for fraud. As well as falling in love…
There are several layers and subplots in this 18th-century story. Spufford seems to manage to keep each of the plates for these spinning well, making it quite readable and fairly fast-paced. Smith is an entertaining character, his boldness and naivety make for entertaining reading and he frequently sparks of the other main character, Tabitha Lovell. Liked the setting, New York feels fresh, edgy and slightly dangerous at this time. Very different to his non-fiction which I have read in the past and maybe a book for someone who wants to give historical fiction a go for the first time.