cover image The Scribe

The Scribe

Matthew Guinn. Norton, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-23929-4

Set in Atlanta in 1881, this superior whodunit from Edgar-finalist Guinn (The Resurrectionist) stars Thomas Canby, a former detective on the Atlanta Police Force, who lost his job after a false accusation of taking bribes. When someone murders barber Alonzo Lewis, “the richest Negro in Atlanta,” severing his head and carving the letter M on his forehead, Canby’s old boss recalls the disgraced detective. The powers that be have suppressed the news, as the city is relying on the success of the International Cotton Exposition to revitalize municipal finances. Another wealthy African-American is killed soon afterward, but this time the letter A is left as the killer’s mark. Canby, who is white, partners with the city’s first African-American police officer, Cyrus Underwood. Since Underwood was the first to find both dead men, he himself is an obvious suspect, but the plot takes numerous turns before the final, painful resolution. The richness of the characters and period detail make the prospect of a sequel welcome. Agent: Emma Sweeney, Emma Sweeney Agency. (Sept.)