D’Arcy McGee is assassinated. As John A. Macdonald cradles his friend’s bloody head, he blames transplanted Irish terrorists: the Fenian Brotherhood. Within a day, Patrick James Whelan is arrested. After a show trial, Whelan is publicly hanged.
That much is history. Did Whelan do the deed?
What if Clara Swift, a mere slip of a girl, sees the trace-line of a buggy turn off Sparks Street, moments after the murder? What if housemaid Clara understands her dead mentor’s shorthand, and forges an unlikely alliance with the Prime Minister’s investigator? And ends up being trusted by the condemned man’s wife — and by Lady Agnes Macdonald . . .
It’s reimagining a crisis that tested a nation.
It’s history with a mystery.
It’s A Clara Swift Tale.
And it all begins with a shot in the dark.
Shortell constructs her gripping historical novel on the bones of an actual incident: the murder of Thomas D'Arcy McGee, a staunch supporter of Canadian nationhood and the subsequent hanging of Irish immigrant Patrick James Whelan, who professed his innocence of the crime to the end. Set mainly in Ottawa in 1868, the story is told with brio by 15-year-old Clara Swift, who describes herself as an "Irish girl, British subject and a Canadian all 21 months we've had a country." When Clara, McGee's servant, hears a gunshot outside the door of their boarding house, she opens the door to find McGee dead. Suspicion immediately falls on members of the Fenian brotherhood, who considered the outspoken McGee to be a traitor to their cause. The authorities, keen to find the culprit, hastily settle on Whelan. Clara, however, is not convinced of his guilt. Shortell vividly conveys the atmosphere that surrounded the murder and examines the profound impact that McGee's death had on the development of the fledgling nation. This is a lively and fascinating story, well told. (BookLife)