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Original Death    by Eliot Pattison order for
Original Death
by Eliot Pattison
Order:  USA  Can
Counterpoint, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Eliot Pattison is best known for his brilliant Tibetan series starring ex-Inspector Shan Tao Yun, which started with The Skull Mantra. But he's also written a series set in Colonial America. Like the Tibetan mysteries, it's filled with mysticism and an empathy with endangered cultures (both Native Americans and Highlanders in this case). Original Death is the third episode following Bone Rattler and Eye of the Raven.

As Original Death opens in 1760, the French and Indian War is going strong. Highlander Duncan McCallum leaves the woman he loves, Sarah, and accompanies his Nipmuc friend Conawago, who has learned that he might not be the last member of his tribe after all. They journey to Bethel Church near the southern shore of Lake Champlain to meet Conawago's nephew Towantha and the latter's twelve-year-old grandson Ojiwa.

En route, an eagle leads to Duncan's finding a Highland soldier, recently drowned (tied to a wheel and dumped in a lake while still living), seemingly a casualty of the French/British war. Further on, they are shot at by men on boats carrying apparent army supplies. And when they arrive, they find that 'The gentle folk of Bethel Church had all been killed'. But Ojiwa and other Indian children are missing. Duncan soon learns that Ojiwa escaped and is on their trail, speaking of a 'world breaker'. Duncan follows.

It seems that every time Duncan encounters Europeans, there are misunderstandings and he's suspected of foul deeds, the very deeds he is investigating. There are many captures and escapes, betrayals and rescues, as he tries to understand what is happening and to save Conawago's last surviving relative. A crazed Welsh woman (Hetty, mother of the Bethel Church schoolmaster) speaks of a Revelator; what does she know? Duncan learns of a 'new cult among the western tribes, spreading like wildfire' and meets its leader.

Duncan eventually ties all these threads together, along with a missing treasure (a stolen payroll), and a clear pattern emerges. He and Conawago are sent on a dangerous quest by the great Iroquois peace chiefs - they foil a very clever plot and change the course of history.

I found Original Death even better than Eye of the Raven and enjoyed it very much. My only complaint about this (and many other mysteries) is that if the hero really were hit on the head so often, he'd have serious brain damage and be unable to function. That caveat aside, don't miss this intriguing series, which will make you see Colonial America in an entirely new light.

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