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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Original Death: A Mystery of the French and Indian War by Eliot Pattison

I would have read Original Death by Eliot Pattison eventually because I am a fan of his Colonial American mystery series to which this book belongs.  I am glad to have had the opportunity to read it a good deal sooner since I was provided with an advance copy by publicist Julia Drake.


One reason why I like this series is because it reminds me so much of the classic Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper.  Another reason is because protagonist Duncan McCallum was exiled to America on suspicion of being a Jacobite.  I have a sentimental attachment to Jacobites that goes back to when I was a wee child enthralled with Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson.  For more of my observations on Jacobites see my March 2013 post Playing Red Rover With William Wallace .

Yet the best reason to like a mystery is a plot with unexpected twists.  Original Death definitely delivers plot twists. When the revelation of whodunit finally came, I could honestly say that I didn't expect it.

The characterization was excellent. The anguish of Duncan's Native American companion Conawago over the village massacre that he and Duncan encounter was quite moving as was Duncan's inner conflict precipitated by this mystery. There were also some wonderful side characters such as Hetty the Irish seer, Kassawaya the Oneida warrior woman and the real historical personage, Colonel William Johnson. I was grateful for Pattison's recommendation of a biography of William Johnson in his author's note.  I will want to read White Savage by Fintan O'Toole and probably review it on this blog.

There were also some instances of lyrical prose which lend extra power to this novel. For example when Duncan is reflecting on the Native American perspective he says to himself that  "The settlements, the armies, the endless flow of farmers were like rot in the root of their world."  As a poet myself, I was pleased by the alliteration.

I can recommend this novel to fans of historical mysteries and of the Sara Donati novels that take place in the same period and were also inspired by the Leatherstocking Tales.  I would say that I recommend it to fans of the bestselling Outlander novels by Diana Gabaldon as well except that Outlander fans seem to prefer gargantuan tomes with too little plot to justify their length.  Eliot Pattison's books are never over written.  He certainly deserves a wider audience for his work.

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