Reviewed by Margaret Donsbach
Original Death is the third in a mystery series set in Colonial America during the French and Indian Wars. Although the tensions that will lead to the Revolutionary War seethe below the story's surface, they remain secondary to the tragedy of the Iroquois Confederacy, formed to promote peaceful relations among the tribes, and, especially, to the tragedy of the Nipmuc tribe, depopulated by war and disease after the arrival of white settlers. Many of the few remaining Nipmucs settled in "praying towns" founded by Puritans to convert natives to Christianity.
Duncan McCallum is a medically trained Highland Scot who
arrived in America on a convict ship and is still painfully haunted by the massacre
of his clan. His experiences give him more in common with natives like his
Nipmuc friend Conawago than with the English, his clan's persecutors. When
Conawago, who fears he may be the last surviving member of his tribe,
receives a message from another survivor, his nephew Towantha, Duncan joins Conawago
in traveling to the village where Towantha has settled. There, they find a
scene of slaughter. Ill fortune makes Duncan a suspect in the killing of a
Scottish soldier. Worse fortune makes him a prisoner of a tribe
of Hurons whose way of life revolves around torturing their enemies. Perhaps uniquely in mystery fiction, McCallum's motive for tracking down the real killers is to restore harmony in the spiritual world - on which the temporal world's battered harmony may depend.
Original Death is filled with hair-raising danger, desperate escapes, and the bravery of men and women willing to sacrifice themselves for their loved ones, their communities and spiritual values. The novel is also filled with well researched historical detail. Readers who are not experts in Colonial New England and its native tribes will learn some history from this novel. (2013; 358 pages, including a historical Timeline and an Author's Note about the history behind the novel)More about Original Death at Powell's Books or Amazon.com