by Francis Spufford
An historical fiction centering around an English gentleman, Richard Smith, who arrives in 1746 New York demanding a significant sum of capital without any expressed purpose. While the copy of his receipt proving the legitimacy of his claims is two months off from arriving by ship, Smith finds forced to interact with an odd, eclectic assembly of characters and customs in a town suspicious of his undeclared intent.
This quick read introduces characters in lively detail, containing narrative strands for an unlikely romance, dubious friendships, and the slow-burning reveal of Smith's purpose in New York. Spufford is a master of witty, clever dialogue and even more skilled at articulating ornate scenes of old New York's seedy, morally suspect societal life. Witnessing Smith flounder through the town and maneuvering its social circles set the tone for a highly entertaining romp. This comedy of manners is ornamented with such a fine finish that it's a wonder how Golden Hill is only Spufford's first novel.