The Constable's Tale: Book summary and reviews of The Constable's Tale by Donald Smith

The Constable's Tale

A Novel of Colonial America

by Donald Smith

The Constable's Tale by Donald Smith X
The Constable's Tale by Donald Smith
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2015
    352 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

Set in a tumultuous period that helped to forge a nation, a riveting mystery that takes a volunteer constable through the wilds of colonial North Carolina to track down a shadowy killer

When a traveling peddler discovers the murder of a farm family in colonial North Carolina whose bodies have been left in bizarre positions, circumstances point to an Indian attack. But Harry Woodyard, a young planter who is the volunteer constable of Craven County during a period in America's past when there was no professional police force, finds clues that seem to indicate otherwise. The county establishment wants to blame the crime on a former inhabitant, an elderly Indian who has suddenly reappeared in the vicinity like an old ghost. But he is a person to whom Harry owes much.

Defying the authorities, Harry goes off on his own to find the real killer. His investigation takes him up the Atlantic seacoast and turns into a perilous hunt for even bigger quarry that could affect the future of Britain in the American continent.

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BookBrowse Review
One hundred pages in and, sadly, I have to report that the writing is poor and the dialogue doesn't move the plot on. The relationship between characters isn't obvious, and friendships are formed without any rhyme or reason. The main character is hard to like; he alternates between being naive and a social climber. The author puts too much history into the book which slows down the flow. Also there are annoying inaccuracies such as the use of the word 'bucko.' which is used frequently. I looked up the etymology and apparently, it wasn't used until the 19th century, but this book is set in the mid-1700s.

Other Reviews
"Starred Review. Fans of Eliot Pattison's Bone Rattler series will relish Smith's impressive debut, set in 1759... Smith balances historical detail and a twisty whodunit plot like a veteran." - Publishers Weekly

"Through detailed descriptions of characters and setting, readers can easily imagine early American life and its shifting governance. Compares well with the more serious Bone Rattler series by Eliot Pattison or the Smithyman saga by David More." - Booklist

"Read it for its suspense, for its many surprises, and for its insight into early American colonial life. But read it foremost because Smith's debut novel is a fast-paced romp, a beautifully spun tale." - Gary Schanbacher, author of the Spur Award-winning Crossing Purgatory

"The Constable's Tale is the best first novel I've read in a long while. Lyrical and tough and suspenseful and set in a time and place that's been little explored in fiction, especially detective fiction, but which Donald Smith brings alive with clarity and vibrancy and a muscular authority. A first-rate novel." - Edgar and Shamus Award-winning author James W. Hall

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