Thursday, January 23, 2014

Eliot Pattison's Original Death - A Puzzling Mystery Wrapped in History! A Must-Read for History Lovers! Amazing Story!

Following the Storm the night sky was like crystal. A thousand stars beckoned. The wind had slackened, the clouds had vanished, and the reflection of the moon stretched for miles over the still black water. Duncan stood at the rail with Conawago, who fingered the wooden tube carved by his kinsman. He had no words to ease the old Nipmuc's troubles. The bodies lined up in the smithy of Bethel Church would haunt their sleep as long as they lives. 
But just as real to Conawago were the killings on the other side reported by the half-king's followers. Spirits were not supposed to die, and if they did they would face nothing but interminable blackness until the end of time. But that was not the unspeakable horror that kept the old Nipmuc's face clouded and his tongue uncharacteristically silent. The words of Black Fish had stabbed at Conawago's heart. When all the original spirits died the gates of the other side would close forever. Black Fish had testified to the Council, holding the truth beads in his hand as he repeated the words of the dead. Then the people of the forest would become no more than dust. They would be no more forever. The looming end of the tribal world had weighed heavily on Conawago for years, but he selcom spoke of it, and when he did it was of events in a possible future, a future that might yet be avoided. But suddenly messages about that ending were coming from the other side. It had become real, happening before them.

Original Death:
Bone Rattler Series
By Eliot Pattison

There has been much adventure and excitement in many of the Native American novels I've read, but none has brought to us such an amazing mystery as has Eliot Pattison. I had some niggling thoughts from time to time, but the conclusion and discovery was all quite a surprise for me... There are many parts that mainly are based upon the happenings between the years 1664 and 1765, according to the very helpful timeline provided in the appendix.

Pattison also added an ending Note that provides readers with the event that brought about this book: French raiders slaughtered eleven unresisting Christian members of the Delaware tribe at the Moravian settlement of Gnadenhutten in Pennsylvania...and again years later captured 96 Christian Delaware men, women and children, lining them up and crushing their skulls. Pattison was touched as I was by the brutality, but more for the symbolism. "The tribal victims had assimilated, had trusted, had suffered stigma from their own tribes for their embrace of European ways and European faith. Few episodes in our relations with Native Americans more poignantly raise the question of who were the savages and who were the enlightened humans..." Soooo true!

The primary character in the series is exiled clan chief Duncan McCallum. I have not read the first two so am not quite sure why he has been exiled, but do know that all of his family were killed. McCallum is the last of his clan. This series is almost like a time traveler where McCallum moves into various places and becomes involved immediately. Readers should be prepared for the complexity of the story as this includes many different factions that were "playing war" during our colonial period. There are also multiple Native American groups as well, essentially, it seems, divided as war and peace type tribes. Conawago, one of the last of the Nipmuc's clan had become friends with Duncan earlier and had helped him through his trauma. Now, it was Conawago who needed help. He had received a letter from another of the last of his clan: "Once a year before the harvest moon I send this letter to a different location in the hope of reconnecting the chain of our blood." Hickory John, Towantha, was the son of his brother and with him was his grandson. There were just the three of them. But by the time Duncan and Conawago had arrived, there remained only the grandson!They had been staying at Bethel Church near Lake Champlain. They had gone first to the Church since there was nobody around, thinking that there was a service. .                                                                                                                                
But a cow called out in discomfort, needing to be milked. Something was very wrong...The cow would have been milked first thing in the morning...He found Conawago on the floor, holding the bloody head of a man in his lap! Before him was a line of bodies; all had been killed...But in later looking around, they found evidence of more children that were not there. Then Duncan found the first dead Scot... "The cow bleated again, and the man kicked a pail to the second man. "Get someone to milk the damned beast, Corporal," he spat, "then search every house and find me a witness."

The soldier had fought, taking several
bruises and slices on the back of his
hands and cheek before receiving
the wound in his chest that had killed
him.  He had been in his thirties and
judging from the scars across his jaw
and hands, was the veteran of more
that one battle. The tartan of his kilt
was black and green, that of the Black
Watch, renowned as the toughest, most
seasoned troops in America. The
sight of another dead Scot seemed 

to sap
Duncan's strength...

He and Conawago had not been able to keep away from the war... As they continue to search, they were soon interrupted. Rangers had come through and also discovered what had happened. Of course they blamed Duncan! As things, of course, got mixed up, soon Conawago was hurt and taken to a place to get help, only to find something and take off on his own! But at least Duncan discovered Ishmael, and was able to take the boy under his wing... He discovered another in the water... But it was clear that they had been murdered...                                             "He sat in the moonlight, trying again to link the pieces of the puzzle before him. Dead Mohawks at Bethel Church. Captive children being taken north to be killed. A missing treasure of the British king. A witch who sought out the half-king..."    Stay silent between the worlds.    This is how we first die.                                                              
Moving into the next part takes on a surreal, almost fantasy quality as Duncan tries to go on while Conawago has moved in a different direction. Recognize that Pattison shared from the Native American's standpoint, the beliefs that they held. As earlier mentioned, Conawago and many others immediately feared what was being said... that the old ones were being killed in the other world... it would possibly disappear with no way for the living to cross over.

At the same time, those who had killed the people at Bethel Church were living, demons in action though they may be... And soon it was discovered that that same day, the silver to support the pay for the military, mostly Scots, had been stolen--from a supposedly foolproof container. That, too, was done by the living...

Thus begins the mystery, but moving through that requires that the fears and rumors of the supernatural world must be confronted as well! I enjoyed Duncan's role and confusion as he tried to deal with what the Native Americans were saying, which often was symbolic rather than literal. Even when he "was chosen" to go along with Conawago to find the children, he did not realize until it was happening that he had committed his life to this activity! Would they succeed. And who had the children? Was it a man calling himself the Revelator and working to take over the leadership of all tribes? Or was there somebody even higher behind it all?

I was both captivated and dismayed with what began to be discovered... Pattison has weaved a story that merges so many of those involved, yet manages to retain a "whodunit" investigation going for readers that is not and cannot be solved until the very end! Truly an outstanding novel which is certainly recommended for your consideration.


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 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment