“Hudson’s Kill” by Paddy Hirsch is set in 1803, New York City, and chapters are conveniently identified by day to facilitate continuity. The crush of people make New York a dangerous place to live, and as more people arrive, more people die. Mistrust is rampant, and overt religious discrimination is everywhere in every section of society. The story is conversation driven in the vernacular of the time and immerses readers into that place and time.
Hirsch’s vivid descriptions set the stage. “A blanket of cloud had rolled in across the city with the dusk, and the night was pitch dark. There was no street lighting in Canvas Town, and no torches for fear of fire, but two of Owens’ men carried lanterns, attached to long poles.”
The characters, both main and secondary, are well developed and colorful, reflecting the atmosphere of the time, and readers see them clearly. “He was a balding, pug-faced man of about forty, whose belly was barely confined by a yellow-and-black-striped waistcoat. He wore a single watch chain, stretched so tight it looked as though the timepiece attached to it might pop out at any moment.”
Into a dreary scene, come Marshal Flanagan and Sergeant Vanderool who kneel beside the body of a young woman, murdered in an alley. The murder of a young woman is rare, and this young woman in not a typical street inhabitant. Investigation strategies in 1800 are different from those of today; however, the role of the police department is still the same. This is murder; a young girl has been slaughtered and dumped. Flanagan and Vanderool must speak for her, must act for her, and must find the killer. Readers are taken back to a time of paid informants, intimidation, and roughneck interrogation to bring justice for victims. However, a lost life is still a tragedy, a crime that must be solved. The plot progresses carefully and deliberately as clues are uncovered, suspects develop, and questions are answered, leading to an exciting and dramatic end. For readers there is also an update six months later.
“Hudson’s Kill” transports readers to a time when people in New York were struggling for both control and existence. It is intense, violent, and at the same time realistic and compelling. I was given a review copy of “Hudson’s Kill” by Paddy Hirsch and Forge Books. It is a captivating thriller reflects New York in 1803.