Eye of the Raven

Written by Eliot Pattison
Review by Margaret Barr

In the second installment of his colonial mystery series, Edgar Award winner Pattison provides an absorbing tale firmly and effectively grounded in the history of earlyAmerica. Traveling a wilderness road with his Indian comrade and mentor Conawago, Scots medic Duncan McCallum comes upon a grisly murder scene. Not only is the victim—a land surveyor—nailed to a tree, his heart has been replaced by a metal gear. Together the Scotsman and the Indian strive to solve the mystery of this and other identical murders that connect Virginia planters, a mulatto slave family seeking freedom, a French-born former Jesuit, Quakers, and Philadelphia grandees eager to expand their holdings in the Pennsylvania Territory.

The ritual killings coincide with the negotiation of a treaty between the natives and the land companies, with representatives from Virginia and Pennsylvania competing for advantage. A false confession by a respected Iroquois chief sends McCallum on a dangerous and enlightening investigation across the disputed territory. In Indian settlements along the way, he witnesses the upheaval and devastation imposed by European encroachment. By the time he and Conawago reachPhiladelphia, where the outcome of both treaty and the murder trial will be simultaneously determined, his identity as a runaway bondsman imperils his life. For in that city he encounters the aristocratic and vengeful enemy who professes to hold his indenture.

Scientific advances in mechanics and electricity, and the ancient Indian traditions alternately aid and hamper McCallum’s quest for truth, and he meets with widely divergent methods of justice. Their divergent methods of justice are also factors. Throughout the novel Pattinson superbly builds tension and explores a period of shifting and uncertain alliances and loyalties. A thoroughly gripping read.