Eliot Pattison,
Bone Rattler
(Counterpoint, 2009)

This, the first in a series set in colonial America, offers readers a complex mystery, a background of the French & Indian War and an exploration of cultural differences.

Duncan McCallum, a young Scot whose family has been decimated by the British, finds himself indentured to Lord Ramsey, a land baron with ties to the crown, and bound aboard a prison ship for the New World. Before they even arrive in New York, Duncan is shaken by the murder of a tutor in the service of Ramsey and the apparent suicide of his only friend aboard the ship, and he is subjected to the suspicions of both his British keepers and fellow Scots prisoners.

When he rescues a strange young woman who has either fallen or jumped into the sea, Duncan is rewarded by being assigned to replace the murdered tutor and also charged with responsibility of investigating his predecessor's death. It is only later he learns the woman is Ramsey's eldest daughter, who earlier had been a prisoner among the Indians.

Arriving at the Ramsey estate in the wilderness, the mysteries compound and more murders occur amidst Indian attacks, conflicts between the regular army and Ramsey's militia, rumors of French activities and odd messages left in the forest. Adding another problem, McCallum's surviving brother, a soldier whom he had hopes of finding, has been denounced as a traitor and is missing.

To unravel this quandary, McCallum must form unusual alliances and embark on a dangerous journey into the wilderness, putting his life in jeopardy and a bounty on his head.

Eliot Pattison, the author, who lives on an 18th-century farm in the Oley Valley near Reading, Pa., is well grounded in the history of the period. I'm looking forward to the next in this interesting series.

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
John Lindermuth

2 August 2014

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