The French and Indian War provides a backdrop for a complex tale of clashing cultures and mass murder.
In the summer of 1760, Scotsman Duncan McCallum accompanies his Indian mate, Conawago, on a journey to reconnect with the remainder of his tribe, Christians all. A massacre they find at Bethel Church sends Conawago into deep grief. There are soldiers all around. Madame Pritchard, a Frenchwoman who feigns deafness so that the English don't imprison her or worse, reports that the raiders took the children of the community with them. With the help of a Mohawk named Sagatchie, they begin their slow pursuit, which is full of obstacles and hardships. A few letters they discover fill in some of the details surrounding the mass murder. Falsely arresting Duncan for the killing of a corporal, the sadistic British Col. Cameron takes perverse pleasure in putting him into "the iron hole." Conawago, meanwhile, is tortured by his captors. Duncan and Conawago's escape makes them objects of a manhunt as they try to untangle the story of the brutal crime. A pair of quirky adventurers—Ishmael, who's highly attuned to the spirit world, and Macauley, who's left his regiment in disgust—enliven their party and their story. Reminiscence and conjecture among the adventurers fill the quiet moments between episodes. Hetty, a notorious witch, members of several different tribes and the discovery of a thrilling library are highlights of their odyssey.
Duncan's third mystery (Eye of the Raven, 2010, etc.), rich in period detail, is often somber and unblinking in its portrayal of a dark period in history.