PEOPLE OF THE MIST by Kathleen O’Neal Gear


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 Ninth in the First North Americans series from the savvy Gears, who specialize in tales about prehistoric cultures (People of the Silence, 1997, etc.) that are correct in every spear and stewpot, sometimes hilariously anachronistic in diction, but generally sturdy of plot. This latest installment is set, circa 1300 A.D., among the Algonquian people of the Chesapeake Bay area. Young Red Knot is the granddaughter of Hunting Hawk, Chief of the Greenstone clan, who arranged Red Knot's marriage to a powerful new leader from the west, Copper Thunder. To escape the marriage, Red Knot plans to meet and flee with High Fox, handsome son of the chief of a neighboring village. But she is brutally murdered in the woods, political mayhem ensues, and war seems on the way. Since the power alliance with Copper Thunder is off, and enemies are likely to move in, the loose association of local villages is weakened. And what of Copper Thunder himself, who seems to be nursing secret plans? Fresh from his isolated island comes the Panther (a kind of Rumpole of the longhouse), believed by all to have witchy powers. The Panther is ancient, crabby, and tired but gets involved in response to the pleas of young Sun Conch, who loves High Fox, top suspect in the murder. The Panther pads around, interviews suspects, visits sites like the Death House (fancy carving and reassembling is done here--not for the squeamish), and tilts with Hunting Hawk, all the while weighing in with pipe-tapping wisdom: ``The clan can get in the way of being human.'' At the close, there are some super deductions, a winnowing of a fat list of suspects, and a dip into the Panther's odd past. Without the period feel of Sue Harrison's inter-village rows in Song of the River (p. 1406), but the mystery--out of its 14th- century context--is entertaining. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-85854-X
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1997


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