Original Death

by Eliot Pattison

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

Other novels set during the French and Indian Wars:

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper (1826), about a white man raised by Indians during the French and Indian War; set in 1757. More info

The Young Titan by F. Van Wyck Mason (1959), about the capture of a fortress in Nova Scotia by American soldiers in 1745 during the French and Indian War. More info

Shadowbrook: A Novel of Love, War and the Birth of America by Beverly Swerling (2003), about two men raised as brothers on a Manhattan Island plantation and the woman who loves one of them but also wishes to become a nun. More info

Nonfiction about the French and Indian War:

The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of America by Walter R. Borneman (2006). More info

The War that Made America: A Short History of the French and Indian War by Fred Anderson (2005). More info

Bloody Mohawk: The French Wars and Revolution on New York's Frontier by Richard Berleth (2009), about the Mohawk River Valley from 1713 to 1794. More info


Nipmuc, an article about the Nipmuc people and their history at Wikipedia

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