Celtic Knot: A Clara Swift Tale by Ann Shortell

celtic knot


Authenticate detail, artistic intuition, and luminous prose mark this fascinating historical tale…

A finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award, Shortell’s debut which details the assassination of the politician Thomas D’Arcy McGee and its aftermath, is both original in conception and thorough in detail. On April 7th, 1869, a year after the politician Thomas D’Arcy McGee is assassinated, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister of Canada, assigns fifteen-year-old Clara Swift, McGee’s former housemaid, to recount circumstances of the senseless murder to preserve the true account of McGee’s life and death in the history. Trusted by both the condemned man’s wife and Lady Agnes Macdonald, Clara becomes an invaluable asset for the Prime Minister’s investigator and finds herself in the middle of the much-hyped case that has the power to alter the Canadian political landscape. Through the eyes of her protagonist, Shortell presents a marvelously textured picture of the 1800s Ottawa with its sharply defined class system. The prejudice against the Irish community after the assassination as people’s political beliefs merge with their religious convictions is handled with as much clarity and precision as McGee’s transformation from a onetime Irish Revolutionary to a champion of Canada and Confederation is done. Clara comes out as an intelligent, bright young woman whose keen observations and attention to detail bring out the personalities of other characters with subtle shading. McGee is portrayed as a charismatic figure whose passionate political beliefs, firm convictions, and gentle dealing earns him tons of friends and an equal number of enemies. The coolly distant Lady McGee, the motherly Mrs. Nancy Trotter, and the sharp-eyed Willy among others are equally memorable. Sir John A. Macdonald’s first-hand involvement in the investigation of the murder provides not only added intrigue but also an old-world charm to the story. Shortell’s narrative is smooth, the prose crisp, and her skill at developing the tension of the situation with precision make it a completely absorbing tale. She gives Clara’s first-person narrative plenty of intrigue with occasional use of Gaelic, Latin, and French, and the latter’s detailed observations are a consistent pleasure. Shortell’s research is marked with authenticity, and all the historical details are right on the spot. Shortell’s fascinating take on a significantly important part of Canadian history marks her as a talented newcomer to the historical fiction scene. Historical fiction readers craving intriguing story and intelligent plot will savor this gripping literary tale.


Celtic Knot: A Clara Swift Tale

By Ann Shortell

Buy now

Pub date March 21, 2018


Price $3.89 (USD) Kindle edition, $16.20 Paperback, $26.99 Hardcover


Categories: Historical fiction

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