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Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Constable's Tale: Freemason Mystery in Colonial America

I have always been drawn to mysteries taking place in Colonial America.   Each colony had its own unique set of characteristics and discontent with the British crown's policies was slowly rising.  It was a fascinating period.  That's why I agreed to read The Constable's Tale by Donald Smith for this blog.  I received an ARC from the publisher for free in return for this honest review.

The summary indicated that the protagonist, Constable Harry Woodyard, went on an extensive foray through North America in order to discover the truth about the murder of a family in North Carolina.  Knowing that The Constable's Tale is a first novel,  I thought that the narrative might possibly become bogged down in travel details.   I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Smith wielded his power of description with admirable restraint.  Some popular bestselling authors should learn from his example.  Suspenseful incidents that were relevant to the plot, or scenes involving character development happened at every stage of Woodyard's journey.

The motive that originally impelled the protagonist on his  investigation was the arrest of a Tuscarora elder known as Comet Elijah for the murders.  Comet Elijah had played an important role in Woodyard's life, and he is not the sort of man who'd forget that he owed a debt of gratitude to someone.

Other than this one character, the Tuscaroras didn't play a central role in this book.  Yet I was astonished that an Iroquoian people lived as far south as North Carolina.  I wanted to know more.  On the  Tuscarora website I learned that the North Carolina Tuscaroras had been the victims of the largest massacre of Native Americans.  The page about this tragic event can be found at Neoheroka Massacre.

A more prominent element in this mystery was Freemasonry.   A Freemason medallion that was found at the scene of the crime led Woodyard to suspect that a Freemason was the perpetrator.  In order to uncover the identity of the medallion's owner, Woodyard needed to unravel a Masonic code.  An article in Wired Magazine shows how complex Masonic codes could be.

I admit that I found the resolution of the case anti-climactic, but I did gain a much better grasp of certain aspects of colonial life.  Donald Smith made an impressive effort to maintain authenticity.  All quotes from journals, letters and documents were in the vocabulary and script of that period.  If this author continues to follow the career of Constable Woodyard,  I would be inclined to join him on his next adventure.




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