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Blood of the Oak by Eliot Pattison

Eliot Pattison’s “Bone Rattler”/”Duncan McCallum” series just got another jaw-dropping installment with publication of “Blood of the Oak” by Counterpoint Press. Eliot Pattison’s novels have a way of waking the reader up to the grim realities of what really went on during Colonial American times, both the heroic and the barbaric.

There’s a lot of graphic detail about the treatment of Black and Indian slaves and white indentured servants in the colonial south during the 1760’s in this book.  There’s also a lot of factual history about the Stamp Tax Act and the ramifications of this attempt to make colonists pay taxes for finished products of every sort while receiving scant compensation for the raw materials that the colonies shipped back to England.  “Blood of the Oak” vividly describes how the stage was set for the Revolutionary War and also poignantly describes how the Iroquois and other Indian tribes were wiped out by a combination of settler incursions onto Indian land, war, disease and enslavement of Indian people.  At the end of the book we see the Iroquois’ female spiritual leader and her most trusted chiefs take the tribes’ idols deeper into the wilderness in a futile effort to get away from death and destruction at white men’s hands.

Not every reader will be able to stomach the violence in “Blood of the Oak.” Those who stick with it will be rewarded with a visceral understanding of that critical period of Colonial history between the French and Indian Wars and the Revolutionary War.  Particularly interesting is the description of  how the Sons of Liberty were able to communicate with each other to eventually unite a disparate group of colonies using a complex system of codes and a range rider system that included both colonists and Iroquois allies.

Despite the extremely graphic violence in this book, it is another masterpiece of America historic fiction and a really bone-rattling mystery thriller.  It will be impossible to romanticize Colonial history again after this excellent, accurately portrayed work of historical fiction.

Liz Nichols

(Reviewed from a supplied pre-pub review copy.)


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Original Death by Eliot Pattison

Original Death” is the third in the “Bone Rattler” series of mysteries set in colonial America.  Once again, Pattison has presented an exciting, historically accurate mystery- adventure story that is similar in some ways to the great American novel, “Last of the Mohicans.”

Like James Fenimore Cooper’s classic, the story is set during the bloody French and Indian War of  1756-1763.  Duncan McCallum is a recent transplant from war-torn Scotland where his entire family was slaughtered by the English as a result of their Jacobean sympathies.  He has been befriended by Conawago, one of the last of his Iroquois Nipmuc clan.  They skirt the French and English battle zones– they think– in search of a Christian Iroquois settlement that is believed to hold a few more of Conawago’s clan members. They find many of the village’s elders and some of the children butchered and indication that several of the children and their teacher have been taken captive, probably to be sold as slaves by the Huron or their allies the Mingos.

Duncan is in the process of investigating the crime scene when a group of British raiders come across the scene and assume Duncan is responsible for the murders.  After several narrow escapes, Duncan is faced with the decision of whether he will sacrifice the remaining kin of his friend Conawago, or his fellow Scottish Highlanders who have made the unfortunate decision to side with the French and the Hurons against the British on the hope that a French will allow the Scotsmen to settle with land in the French Canadian territory.

While the story is a work of fiction, the story is based upon raids of Iroquois Christian villages in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  As Pattison indicates in the Author’s Note, while he has taken some literary license “the broad elements of the conflict reflected herein are faithful to the historic record.”  Readers will feel as if they have been plunked down in the middle of the conflict between the French the British and their respective native and Scottish allies.  Many innocent pawns lost their lives in horrific ways during that conflict.

Pattison creates characters and plots that make it easy for the reader to get caught up and fully involved in the work.  It is hard to put his books down because they are so well written and suspenseful.

Original Death” is another winner from Eliot Pattison.

Reviewed from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols


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