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by David C. Taylor
Severn House, May 2019
304 pages
ISBN: 0727888676

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

NIGHT WATCH is the third novel in David C. Taylor's noir mystery/thriller series set in New York City during the 1950s. The first, NIGHT LIFE, was a finalist for Best Novel at the 2016 Edgar Awards and won the 2016 Nero Wolfe Award. Readers seeking a compelling, finely-honed series that is rooted in history and perfectly captures the immediacy of those deceptively placid times, simply cannot do better.

On a September morning in 1956, Michael Cassidy is having his share of problems. He's suffering from nightmares dating back to the Second World War, and to make matters worse someone is trying to kill him, but not before tormenting him first. A detective in New York City's Homicide Division, Cassidy is not exactly new to threats. But something about this one makes it unique: he narrowly escapes being pushed under a subway train, followed by a cryptic phone call promising that the incident wasn't a simply a near-accident or a one-off: there will be others. The man is toying with Cassidy, taunting him and clearly enjoying it. Cassidy discusses the threat with his partner, Tony Orso, over breakfast, but they realise they have nothing to go on: it's a matter of wait and see.

So Cassidy continues with his work, and it's not long before the cauldron that is New York City spits out a new case to capture his attention. In the southern fringes of Central Park, near Columbus Circle, a body has been discovered. It is a middle-aged man, and he has been murdered. Although at first glance it seems like a simple mugging—the victim's wallet is missing—the autopsy reveals he's been stabbed in the skull, a extremely thin, sharp blade penetrating his brain not once, but several times. On the face if it, the victim is an unlikely target, a man who takes tourists around Central Park in his carriage. Not a wealthy man, then. Detective Michael Cassidy is handed the case, and his investigation leads him to a complex conspiracy involving people in the highest echelons of political power, endangering his own life, and the lives of those around him.

David Taylor's writing is simply superb, perfectly capturing the noir atmosphere of the times, and sweeping the reader through the storyline until the final page. The originators of the genre, Hammett and Chandler, would have been well pleased:

Cassidy hated the night watch. The worst of people seeped out during the night. They did things they would not do in daylight, as if darkness could hide their actions: children were thrown against the wall for not finishing dinner, women were beaten for changing the channel, rapists and muggers, stick-up artists, the perverted, and the weird, they all slid out of the shadows looking for prey. Cassidy remembered the Life magazine photographs of zebras and antelope gathered around a waterhole at night. The flash revealed the glowing eyes of predators waiting in the bushes—New York City after midnight.

As with Taylor's earlier works in the series, NIGHT WATCH is firmly grounded in history, a note at the end documenting the factual basis for his story; and it is faithful in its details, right down to political campaign buttons of the day and Greenwich Village watering-holes that no longer exist, but did once, and are sorely missed. If you haven't read his novels, what on earth are you waiting for?

§ Since 2005 Jim Napier's reviews and interviews have appeared in several Canadian newspapers and on various crime fiction and literary websites, including his own award-winning review site, Deadly Diversions. His debut crime novel Legacy was published in the Spring of 2017, and the second in the series, Ridley's War, is scheduled for release in the Fall of 2019.

Reviewed by Jim Napier, June 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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