Blood of the Oak
A Duncan McCallum Mystery by Eliot Pattison
Review: A physician by training, Duncan McCallum is known among the native tribes of mid-1700s America as a Death Speaker, someone who "was known not so much for his healing as for his ability to learn from the dead, to coax the truth out of unexpected corpses." When a series of gruesome, cruel even, murders hits his Pennsylvania town, he is compelled to uncover the reason why, in Blood of the Oak, the fourth mystery in this historical series by Eliot Pattison.
At the same time as McCallum begins gathering clues surrounding the mysterious deaths, his friend Conawago is distraught to learn that a sacred artifact, one known as the Blooddancer, has disappeared. McCallum thinks the theft must be connected to the murders, but cannot imagine how, or more importantly, why. Still, he begins a journey south, in the direction that he believes the Blooddancer has taken, leaving a trail of murders behind.
Elegantly crafted with a strong sense of time and place, Blood of the Oak is yet another outstanding entry in this fine series. But it isn't perfect, primarily due to the uneven pacing of the narrative. The first act, as it were, with McCallum and Conawago in Pennsylvania, sets up the plot and gets the action moving. It's compelling in a way that draws the reader in, wondering with McCallum how all these disparate pieces fit together. The second act takes place in Virginia, with the group imprisoned on a tobacco plantation, forced to work the fields with the slaves. Nearly half of the book is set here, and little is done to advance the plot during this time. It's largely a character study at this point, with several cast members taking center stage, and definitely makes for an interesting, some might say enlightening, history lesson. But large portions of this section could have been excised with little loss of continuity. Finally, McCallum comes up with an escape plan to start the relatively short third act, and it all comes to a close with a cleverly constructed denouement. It's hard to find fault with a book so well-written and engaging, one that will bring tears to the eyes of the reader more than a few times, and one that is able to devise an intriguing plot around what most probably consider dull history (the Stamp Act of 1765) but in fact some consider the start of process that became the American Revolution, that a slow section here and there seems unimportant.
Acknowledgment: Julia Drake Public Relations provided a copy of Blood of the Oak for this review.
Review Copyright © 2016 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Soul of the Fire
Minotaur Books (Hardcover), November 2014
ISBN-13: 9780312656034; ISBN-10: 0312656033
Location(s) referenced in Blood of the Oak: Pennsylvania; Virginia
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Blood of the Oak by Eliot Pattison — A Duncan McCallum Mystery
Publication Date: March 2016
List Price: $26.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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