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Original Death: A Mystery of Colonial America Hardcover – July 23, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (July 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582437319
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582437316
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #571,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Edgar-winner Pattison combines action, period details, and a whodunit with ease in his impressive third mystery set in Colonial America (after 2010's Eye of the Raven). The French and Indian War is in its sixth year in 1760, and the American wilderness is full of armed men lusting to soak the land in blood for the sake of distant kings. Against this backdrop and the continued encroachment of the white man on the traditions and lands of the American Indian, Scottish exile Duncan McCallum is trying to help his Nipmuc friend, Conawago—who's given up hope of ever seeing another member of his tribe—reunite with a previously unknown relative. The quest gets off to an ominous start with McCallum's discovery of a dead soldier tied to a wheel at the bottom of a lake. As the bodies pile up, Pattison pays tribute to the conventions of the murder mystery without sacrificing excitement or a nuanced look at the final stage of the war between the British and the French for control of North America. Agent: Natasha Kern, Natasha Kern Literary Agency. (Aug.)

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Third in the Bone Rattler series, this novel continues Highlander Duncan McCallum’s American adventures after he and his friend Conawago discover the massacred remains of Christian Indians in a small settlement, and they attempt to rescue the few surviving children who have been abducted. Set during the French and Indian War, the story vividly depicts the wilderness landscape, the disparate Native Americans allied with the English army, the Highlanders hoping to start a new life, innocent settlers, missionaries, and spies. Every faction fights to retain a way of life that is foreign to the others, and McCallum somehow juggles them against each other, time and again thumbing his nose at torture, imprisonment, and death. Pattison twists a skein of plotlines and weaves Indian mysticism into a time-capsule portrait of America at a crossroads: a time of endings for some and the beginning of a revolution played out by cruel, compelling, and sometimes powerful people with warring visions. Themes of disillusionment and a vanishing way of life make this series in some ways similar to Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, though Pattison adds an element of psychological suspense comparable to Jean Zimmerman’s The Orphanmaster (2012) and a degree of human complexity that suggests Sarah Donati’s Wilderness novels. --Jen Baker

More About the Author

Eliot Pattison has been described as a "writer of faraway mysteries," a label which is particularly apt for someone whose travel and interests span such a broad spectrum. After reaching a million miles of global trekking, visiting every continent but Antarctica, Pattison stopped logging his miles and set his compass for the unknown. Today he avoids well-trodden paths whenever possible, in favor of wilderness, lesser known historical venues, and encounters with indigenous peoples. An international lawyer by training, early in his career Pattison began writing on legal and business topics, producing several books and dozens of articles published on three continents. In the late 1990's he decided to combine his deep concerns for the people of Tibet with his interest in venturing into fiction by writing The Skull Mantra. Winning the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery--and listed as a finalist for best novel for the year in Dublin's prestigious IMPAC awards--The Skull Mantra launched the Inspector Shan series, which now includes Water Touching Stone, Bone Mountain, Beautiful Ghosts, and The Prayer of the Dragon. Both The Skull Mantra and Water Touching Stone were selected by Amazon.com for its annual list of ten best new mysteries. Water Touching Stone was selected by Booksense as the number one mystery of all time for readers' groups. The Inspector Shan series has been translated into over twenty languages around the world.
Pattison entered China for the first time within weeks of normalization of relations with the United States in 1980 and during his many return visits to China and neighboring countries developed the intense interest in the rich history and culture of the region that is reflected in these books. They have been characterized as creating a new "campaign thriller" genre for the way they weave significant social and political themes into their plots. Indeed, as soon as the novels were released they became popular black market items in China for the way they highlight issues long hidden by Beijing.

Pattison's longtime interest in another "faraway" place -the 18th century American wilderness and its woodland Indians-- led to the launch of his Bone Rattler series, which quickly won critical acclaim for its poignant presentation of Scottish outcasts and Indians during the upheaval of the French and Indian War. In Pattison's words, "this was an extraordinary time that bred the extraordinary people who gave birth to America," and the lessons offered by the human drama in that long-ago wilderness remain fresh and compelling today.

A former resident of Boston and Washington, Pattison resides on an 18th century farm in Pennsylvania with his wife, three children, and an ever-expanding menagerie of animals.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Terry Ambrose on September 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Pattison uses historical facts expertly in this murder mystery set in 1760 America. Character dialogue well done and the plot intricate in its nature. There are some descriptions of graphic violence, however those are a minor part of the book. Plot pacing is strong with very few slow points and is consistent with traditional mystery-plot organization. One of the few weaknesses in this novel involves the transition between scenes set in different locales. At times, events felt pieced together without consideration for reader orientation. Overall, however, this is a very strong historical murder mystery.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Debra S Philippon on April 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover
While I generally enjoyed the gist of Original Death, I found it very difficult to concentrate on it, and found myself putting it down for an hour, then picking it up again. The mysteries, both physical and mystical, were well plotted and intricate, with an unexpected whodunit.
I think the main reason I am of two minds about the book is that I was raised on and taught about the opposite side of the French-Indian War. The Huron were the decimated tribes, and the Iroquois were guilty of the same atrocities against them and the Jesuits that Pattison ascribes to the Huron. The French were the honourable allies of the Huron, and it was the British that were the faithless allies of the Iroquois. Perhaps my lapses of concentration were due to having to constantly turn my mindset 180 degrees. I've read books on the Wars of the Roses and the Civil Wars, both English and American, from the perspectives of both sides, but this is the first time I've read anything with this perspective of the French-Indian War. As in the other wars, the truth is undoubtedly somewhere in between. Still, a good story, a good mystery, and interesting characters, as well as incentive to read more about the time period.
My thanks to the Goodreads Firstreads program for providing me with this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pretty Sinister on April 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book, third in a series featuring McCallum and his Indian comrade Conawago, might be alternately subtitled "The Last of the Nipmucs". It owes so much (consciously or not) to James Fenimore Cooper’s adventures of Natty Bumppo and even a few western movies like The Searchers, with which it also strongly shares a common theme. The Scot and the Nipmuc are in search of Conawago’s missing nephew, one of the sole survivors of a recent massacre at a settlement of newly converted Christian Indians. The savagery so disturbs Conawago he flees into the surrounding woods where he intends to find solace among the spirits of the forest. There he will garner courage and strength from ancient forces with the hope of returning bolder to battle the enemy soldiers who murdered the settlers and Indians. McCallum is left alone for most of the book and joins forces with some rebel Scots and a few Indians while following the trail of the murderous soldiers who have kidnapped a handful of Indian children including Conawago’s missing nephew.

Along the way McCallum picks up several unexpected allies including Hetty, the fascinating "Welsh witch", who seems to have paranormal powers. She manages to frighten their enemies and perform near miraculous cures. Each time the story deals with the spiritual beliefs of the Indians or Hetty the book takes on an other worldly tone and transcends the thriller genre to reach a mystical headiness that is hypnotically fascinating. Also notable are the portraits of the warrior Sagatchie; Kassawaya, a woman Oneida skilled as an archer; and the two women Iroquois elders, Tushcona and Adanahoe, the latter as equally adept at seemingly supernatural talents as Hetty. The book has thrilling action sequences and moments of poignant humanity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ella M. on February 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I'm a sucker for a good Scottish protagonist and the idea of a book set in the French and Indian War I found to be intriguing. While it is part of a series, it has the ability to stand alone and tell it's tale. I now want to get "caught up" and see how the main characters develop. If there's one thing I love more than a good Scottish protagonist, it's a great back story. I think it's a fantastic read that is fresh and inventive while still finding room for history.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Samfreene on September 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Original Death: Eliot Pattison

Duncan McCallum finds himself within the confines of a prison that he never expected. Hoping to help his friend reconnect with his past, his family and heritage would bring sorrow, tragedy and sorrow. Duncan McCallum wants to help his Nipmuc friend, Conawago reconnect with his tribe and a young man named Hickory John. But, what happens will alert readers from the start that hidden dangers await these two friends and finding a dead soldier bound to the wheel in the bottom of a lake, start their travels off on a sinister or hostile note. Not wanting to take this as a final deterrent nor thinking that more evil awaits them they forge ahead and what they find will shatter their hopes, create fear within both of their hearts and set off a chain of events that will rock their world. Entering the village they hope to find the settlers of the Christian Indian Settlement at prayer. What they do find is startling, horrific and tragic. Entering the church they find all of the residents within it murdered. Throughout the village and entering the individual homes they find more bodies. Someone decided to ritually murder each of the people in this village as a warning to one man. Hoping to find the reason for the murders what happens next is quite the opposite of what Duncan expected. The British army arrives and seeing him covered in blood instead of questioning him they assume he is guilty of the murders. Conawago was hurt on the way by snipers and has been hidden by a woman that the British thinks is mute. But, the end is far from near and Conawago sees this as just the start of more evil to come. What has awakened the spirit world and he feels it is in trouble and he must find a way to resolve it.
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