Book Review: Death on the Line
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
Death on the Line offers the unlikely perfect combination of murder and astronomy in 1700s America
The journey from London to America is a grueling one for Scotsman Angus MacKay, but it’s a trip worth making for such a big and exciting job opportunity. He’s tagging along with a group of astronomers who are given the task of establishing a true border between the states of Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Once his group arrives, they quickly realize that surveying this border comes with a lot of turmoil. The land was promised to two families by two separate kings. While beginning their work, Angus befriends many people including a few Native Americans who accompany them on their trip.
He also finds that this new responsibility causes him to make a few enemies and to acquire some company he’d rather not keep. Death seems to follow Angus in the form of discovered dead bodies, and the fate of this expedition and the men and women on it tends to hang in the balance more often than not.
History buffs are going to love this one, but they’re not the only ones. Amorosi combines factual inspiration with her own inventive storytelling to create this thrilling historical murder mystery. Though the characters are fictionalized, many of the places and subjects in this story are based off of true events. Charles Mason was a real person who surveyed the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania in the mid 1700s, and it was from his journals that Amorosi acquired many of the plot points for her story. The true historical events that inspired this story really help bring this story to life for readers, but it’s made most memorable with Amorosi’s creative spins on history.
Death on the Line takes place in the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding areas, including towns like Lancaster and Chester. Being from the area myself, I LOVED diving into the historical aspects of it. Set in 1763, it doesn’t exactly look like how it does today. It gives local readers a ton to look forward to.
Outside of the city consists mostly of homesteads and dirt roads, which is where we find Angus and his group most of the time. Local Native Americans guide his group from homestead to homestead, where they’re taken in by families living on their own terms. This includes a few groups who are invested in having the border favor their state. Needless to say, the fate of this border creates a lot of tension in this book, tensions that sometimes ends in murder.
Amorosi does a fantastic job of keeping the mystery alive in her story. Starting with Angus witnessing a suspicious exchange between two men on the ship to America and continuing with an even more suspicious man following them throughout the journey, Amorosi has a knack for creating that eerie feeling we’re looking for in mysteries. She also brings in enough sketchy characters that it’s easy to place them all in the potential role of murderer as dead bodies mysteriously pop up throughout the book. There were a handful of times when I felt convinced I had cracked the code for this story, only to be proven wrong. I’m excited for you to do the same.
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery
Print Length: 257 pages
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