Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bone Rattler

When one man decides to help his family he is penalized quite harshly. Even though he studied to become a doctor he would never see the light of day to complete his schooling. Because of his actions in trying to hide a family member from harm Duncan McCallum a High Scot, is placed in a prison, beaten at times that his skin is rare, and then sent on a voyage to Colonial America as an Indentured Servant to the Ramsey Company. But, there is much to tell before this as many of his comrades or fellow prisoners die along the way from what appears to be suicides but are they really. Many appear to be jumping overboard, others fall prey to some strange illness and all succumb to something eventually as the brutal treatment they receive is graphically described by outstanding author Eliott Paterson in his novel Bone Rattlers the first in the Duncan McCallum mystery series.

Before a close friend dies he placed a black stone in Duncan’s hand. As things progressed on the ship he realized that something odd was happening. The Captain requested that he tell the crew that nothing bad happened to those that died and that they had nothing to fear. But, strange visions entered his mind, he saw a woman’s ghostly figure, the faces of those who died and Duncan felt himself dragged overboard was it all a nightmare or what was really happening to him. One of the keepers on the boat, Lister discussed his past, his reason for being imprisoned and made his promise to uphold the right of his clan as the new head. Watching the tutor to the Ramsey children murdered on board this horrific ship, Duncan has not choice but to fill the position after receiving this black stone from his friend Adam with strange engravings and carvings on it as a warning from the tutor from the beyond in the form of cryptic messages.

Before landing in the New World Duncan and one of the keepers Lister recount their pasts when their lives were better in order to survive the horrors that would come. Seeing an unknown woman in white in his dreams, fearing that he has been thrown overboard and then experiencing the initial ceremony of being the highest in his clan in his cell really brings to light the atrocities faced by many prisoners, the indignities of the time and the fact that he was wrongly accused as well as so many others without the right to speak out and defend themselves.

Dictatorships were present even in Colonial Times and the true colors of this Ramsey Company will startle the reader and give you an inside picture of what went on even back then. Many people in charge want to control the words and actions of those they feel are their subjects. Pitting different groups against each other is what Lord Ramsey has in mind as I continue my review of bestselling author Eiott Patterson’s novel  Bone Rattler.

Duncan has to make the ultimate decision that would decide his fate. Realizing that Professor Evering was murdered and convincing those in charge of the fact, he is presented with an alternative to serving hard labor. Seven years as an indentured servant and tutor to the Lord’s children plus giving lessons to others on the weekend. The Vicar and Arnold present him with the documents that would free him from the Captain’s wrath but he would have to investigate the murder and bring them the killer. Duncan wants no part of being an informer so the decision will not come quickly and his answer will depend on what else they expect from him.

From the start the author grabs the reader and holds his/her interest as you learn about the past, build in ideas for the present and learn about more about both France and England, their relationship with the Indians and how they interacted with the Huron and Iroquois tribes. All Duncan is guilty of is helping an older relative. A conscripted Scots Highlander trying to honor his heritage. Duncan is a physician and political renegade. Can he solve the murder aboard the ship? At times you can smell the dank and putrid air on the ship, feel the lashes as they are inflicted on the prisoners and understand the hate the flows within the veins of the prisoners most of whom are wrongly incarcerated.

The life of one man is described as he tries to find the answers to a murder and hope for his future. One group trying to take over and rule the land and the people any way they can regardless of cost and others trying to remain true to their ways and the past. What will happen?

The ritual in the compass room defines the entire outcome. The objects found center around a murder not a suicide. What Evering planned never came to pass. Gathered the objects- 2 sets of bones- 2 deaths: his and his wives. The eye of the shark stands for evil and the claw the agony and pain that he felt. The feather tells of meeting his wife in heaven and the salt purification and the metal or buckle to fight the demons. As the author through Duncan explains that Evering did not complete the ritual another did. Two separate worlds and two separate halves. The objects held within them the truth. The compass room the tobacco leaves that burned signifying the People of the Forest and contacting his wife in the hereafter. As Duncan is placed in his cell with quill and paper he does not begin transcribing the letters but creates his own family tree of his clan. Adam Munroe was killed for a reason and so much Evering. Adam placed himself in slavery why? What is the significance of the black stone and what did his final words to him mean?

The book is replete with history relating to the forest lore of the Indians and the ancient lore of the Scottish Highlanders whose pasts connect yet are so opposite and different. The past has its secrets and values and the New World does too. Human cargo. History and the anthropology of the Indians and the believes run high throughout the novel.

Entering the New World should have been a better experience for Duncan. Learning the truth behind his release from the prison was enlightening and disheartening. Finding out the connection between Evering and one of the Ramsey children started a chain of events that would change what he set out to do. One Major named Pike who was out for revenge against him but was it Duncan he was really after? After all he endured he realized that he could endure the years of indenture if the end result would change things in his life and others close to him. The war is fought to restrain the Indians in the forest. Truths behind the actions of one Ramsey child revealed.

There are many different factions featured in this novel. The French and the English are at odds and their beliefs so different. Each of the races vying to rule and many using cruel and inhumane ways to take control for the King and some who believe that the colonies belong to them. The links begin to form as he encounters many who would tell him why they are after him, what the Indians want and the ties with Evering.

Iroquois vs. Hurons vs. the English and who the land belongs to. Raids, murders, killings and why? Searching for his missing brother that was at the root of much of his misery and with the aid of those who had held him captive would the truth come out about the murders and much more? Iroquois’s do not want change and they want the old ways to remain. One young girl is kidnapped and the father offers a heavy reward to anyone that finds her. In exchange for finding his daughter Ramsey offers land if she is returned and parchment they stole from his office.

Six volunteers. Who would serve in this troop? Duncan has been chosen to join in the search but many obstacles come his way and then he encounters an Indian named Conawago and things change. Recalling an old friend named Jacob the Fish, dealing with the storm and hoping to find Sarah, he tells him that he was in the Ramsey Company. A friendship and strange alliance formed as Conawago wanted to know more about Duncan.

As the journey to find Sarah continues you learn who is to be trusted, many truths about the Ramsey Company and just how this father felt about finding his daughter. Sarah, mysterious and beautiful, the British military officer, and English Vicar, several lieutenants, majors and many Indians and one Scot named Duncan in the center of it all. Just why are their so many deaths and how are they linked to the French and Indian War? Added to the mix is Duncan’s brother who has disappeared from the military.
An ending that will definitely tie it all together and one man named Duncan be in the center of it. Just who was behind the murders, who committed them and what was the reason for so much hate and destruction? What was found hidden and not supposed to be found? Read this novel and find out for yourself. Will freedom ever ring for Duncan? What happens to the Ramsey children and who will finally decipher the sign of the forest? An ending that will definitely surprise the reader and one young girl who would change everything.
Betrayals, deceit, murder, wars, raids, uncovered treasure and a mystery that will take you back in time and one you will never forget. Eliot Patterson delivers again and we know there is much more in store for Duncan, his clan and his family in the future. Characters so diverse and different and yet bold, daring and unique. Once again Eliot Patterson has penned a five star novel.

Fran Lewis: reviewer 

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