Few writers seem to understand the difficult balance between historical detail and suspense better than Edgar Award finalist Matthew Guinn. His second novel, The Scribe, is a master class in historical mystery.
The time is 1881, the place is Atlanta on the eve of the International Cotton Exposition. Post-Reconstruction, the city is ready to present itself as the avatar of the new industrial South, but a string of murders puts all that in jeopardy. Thomas Canby, a former detective who left his job in disgrace, might be the city’s only hope. He must team with Atlanta’s first African-American police officer, Cyrus Underwood, to solve the gruesome crimes, both to appease the city’s elite businessmen—known collectively as “The Ring”—and to save a city still filled to bursting with racial tension.
Guinn brushes in the perfect amount of detail, from Canby’s own experiences with the racial turmoil of the city to the Ring’s power-driven view of the new society they’ve helped to create. This is the South in transition: Everyone wants to rise from the ashes, but the powerful still dictate how and when that happens. It’s a city bent on prosperity, but the divisive views still create a particular kind of powder keg.
The Scribe is a powerful, elaborate page-turner, perfect for fans of everything from Caleb Carr’s The Alienist to Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.