A Duncan McCallum Mystery by Eliot Pattison
Review: After Duncan McCallum and Conawago find the members of Bethel Church — Christian Iroquois — with their heads bashed in, and the local blacksmith and wheelwright, one of the last of the Nipmuc tribe, tortured to death, and the children of the community missing, the two friends set out to find the killer — or killers — in Original Death, the third mystery in this series set in Colonial America by Eliot Pattison.
Duncan and Conawago quickly separate, the latter heading north towards the French settlement of Montreal, the former south along Lake Champlain following the clues left behind. Duncan is quickly captured by the British authorities and accused of the crime, but escapes and travels westward, haunted by stories of a half-king that is coordinating an attack against the British for control of the region. There are many issues with the crime scene that trouble him: witnesses seeing a wagon heading south and yet Conawago immediately left for the north; what did he see there that Duncan had missed? Why kill the villagers and take the children? And what information did the old Nipmuc have that he was tortured to reveal?
Original Death is a superior mystery, but it is the journey that the reader takes with Duncan McCallum that makes it all that much more special. A minor quibble is that a map wasn't included; one would have made it much easier to track Duncan's trail across New York State to the shores of Lake Ontario and then up the St. Lawrence River to Montreal. There is a real sense of the time and place here, with an uneasy peace between the British and the Scottish brought in to assist with the war effort and between the Europeans and the local tribes of New York. War between England and France is simmering the in background, each side convinced the other is about to fall, both relying on native tribes to give them an advantage. The mystery surrounding the half-king is only one that Duncan and Conawago must solve: who is he, how did he achieve such power, was he involved in the murder and kidnapping at Bethel Church, and probably most importantly, what are his intentions?
As strong as the plot is, it is the elegantly crafted prose, almost lyrical in the way it weaves the story, that will draw readers in. Original Death is exciting and suspenseful, often mystical and frequently cruel and violent, but always true to the characters. One of the best books of the year.
Acknowledgment: Julia Drake Public Relations provided a copy of Original Death for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Minotaur Books (Hardcover), November 2012
ISBN-13: 9780312656041; ISBN-10: 0312656041
Location(s) referenced in Original Death: New York State
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Original Death by Eliot Pattison — A Duncan McCallum Mystery
Publication Date: August 2013
List Price: $26.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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