History and mystery collide in this contemporary whodunit set in the tiny town of Battle Ground, Indiana, the site of a decisive battle in the War of 1812. During this fierce conflict, the great Shawnee Chief Tecumseh died fighting for the British and against his archenemy, General William Henry Harrison, later, President Harrison, whom the warrior called “the Great White Chief.” The cleverly posited query in this mystery within a mystery is whether the death of Tecumseh was the origin of a curse that plagues U.S. presidents even today.
In a mere four days, three men are murdered in Battle Ground, each slaughtered with a centuries-old weapon. It’s up to veteran Detective Jackson O’Mahern and rookie Detective Julie Palmer to determine whether they’re dealing with a serial killer or a psychopath with a very old grudge. With no evidence, no apparent motive, and no obvious suspect, the pair dig in under intense pressure from their superiors and local politicians.
Author W.C. Madden tracks relevant history from the 18th to the 21st centuries, leading us from primitive battlefields to the venues of presidents, all the while making a plausible case for Tecumseh’s curse.
Clearly, this author reserves his passion for days long past; his heart and enthusiasm for the history he relates are contagious. When the action is on the battlefield or any perilous place, the reader is there too, viewing the gore, inhaling the scent of cordite, experiencing the chaos viscerally. With regard to the present-day investigation, however, the storytelling can feel superficial, and the dialogue seems forced and stilted. It’s overly formal, as though the author is a stranger to his own time and place.
Despite the often-stiff use of language and a dryly-presented investigation, history buffs will feast on this fascinating and cleverly conceived slice of the past.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.