WHISTLER INDEPENDENT BOOK AWARD:
“Clara is an appealing protagonist in this skillfully constructed historical mystery . . . In addition to its compelling heroine . . . I was engaged by the polished writing and the finely chosen details of the period . . . breathtaking revelations . . . made for a satisfying, wholly unexpected conclusion to this engrossing mystery." .”
--2019 WIBA Finalist judge Evelyn Lau
Awarded WIBA Fiction Winner
"Celtic Knot is great historical fiction. I love Clara Swift as a character, with all her spunk and attitude. This is not only a suspenseful mystery, but also reads as historical documentation of a time and place about which few know. The combination of elements is masterful . . . I love the descriptions, the language, and the characters who are so well fleshed out. The plot was dynamic and fast-moving . . . and the pace was tension-filled throughout . . . Lovely book, and well-executed.”
--Judge, 27th Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards,
General/Literary Fiction category
"The author’s choice to begin with a sprawling character list informs the reader that this will be a layered, rich, epic story, so read accordingly.
There’s a certain style of clarity needed for an expansive story, and the author uses great instincts to look out for the reader’s expectations. I liked that a lot.
One of the best opening lines I’ve seen in a long time: 'I’m wasting my new beeswax candles, staring at the pages of the past.’
That’s stunning in so many sensory and symbolic ways, with a dash of intrigue. So gripping.
The author uses a voice of formality tailored to suit the era (marvelous authenticity!)
The author uses beautiful phrasing in descriptions: ‘the moon is the merest bowline in the night sky’ creates perfection in the visual.
‘The ink is stiff. The words are weighted in place’ is another example of how delicious these descriptions are.
Beautiful phrasing; so much so that a reader is eager to read on to find the next gem of phrasing art . . .
Relationships are nicely fleshed-out, and I loved the section on page 121: ‘I saw that Hannah was the favourite cousin.’ It’s a wonderful thing to see, to point out, to find evidence of a hierarchy of any kind. Well done. A nice layer of characterization.
Wonderful sensory details throughout, from lace in cuffs, to clothing to food to buildings. The author has put a lot of work into making every element of the story come alive.
Excellent story element crafting, which pairs with story structure and flow to create an excellent reading experience.
Reimagining an historic moment carries with it tremendous risk to be found true to the facts, and also to entertain.
We can look to the musical Hamilton for the pinnacle of getting it right. This story’s pinning to fact strikes some of the same bells.
--Judge, 27th Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards,
Mystery Fiction category
"This story’s surprise ending rippled through me after I’d put the book down.
The author submerges the reader into this historical period through solid characterization, setting, sensory details, and dialogue.
There are many moments that stand out, such as the glass enclosure used to fend off mourners from touching Mr. McGee’s body who are referred to as "scavengers" picking at his carcass—great visuals to express Mr. McGee’s life . . . Clara’s theft . . . was a surprising twist.
And the reveal . . . was both unsettling and tragic . . . this well-researched historical fiction book is one to read.
--Judge, 7th Writer's Digest Self-Published Ebook Awards,
Awarded Honourable Mention, Mystery/Thriller
"The mystery elements work the best in this cleverly-written historical saga. The characters were developed, and the author worked hard to offer the reader a well-described historical setting." —Female Reader, aged 38
"This story oozed good research. I loved that. But the author was not scared of putting a new angle to this crisis in a country’s history." —Male Reader, aged 64
"Suffers a little from a bland cover, but the story is excellent. The prose . . . flowed perfectly, and the suspense, particularly towards the end of the story, filled the page. Excellent job!"
—Male Reader, aged 52
17 Readers judged this book.
13 Would read another book by this author.
13 Would recommend this story to another reader to try.
13 Thought the author understood the readership and what they wanted.
12 Felt the pacing was good or excellent.
11 Felt the author’s strongest skill was developing the characters, and 6 felt the author’s strongest skill was plotting a story.
10 Felt it was easy to follow.
7 Thought the cover was good or excellent.
Editing: 9/10; Writing Style: 8/10; Content: 8/10; Cover: 5/10
“A fascinating mystery in an atmospheric setting. A Red Ribbon Winner and highly recommended."
—Judges’ Summary, 2018 Wishing Shelf Awards
Awarded 4-Star Rating, 2018 Red Ribbon
"A very well-written piece of historical fiction set around the assassination of one of Canada's most intriguing Fathers of Confederation. Young Clara Swift, who tells the story of Thomas D'Arcy McGee's murder and the subsequent trial of his accused killer, is a finely-drawn character who is completely believable as she recounts what the experiences. The author does an excellent job of putting McGee's death in context of the politics of the time. A good murder mystery that you can also learn a lot of history from!”
--L. A. Hill, Amazon Customer FIVE STARS
"I read this book and loved it from beginning to end. Who would know that Canadian history could be so intriguing!? The assassination of D'Arcy McGee was a shocking event in 1868 and this book creates an authentic feel for the way people experienced it. The mystery takes in the history of the Fenians and weaves in the personalities of key political figures of the time . . . It is also a “whodunnit “ and young Clara is an enjoyable clever protagonist. A very enjoyable read. I hope to hear more tales from Clara Swift in the future!”
—David L. Dennis, Amazon.ca Customer FIVE STARS
"I enjoyed this book immensely.
The author's well-written story of a young girl caught in the middle of an event in Canadian history was compelling to read, and an enjoyable way to learn more about Canada's rich past.
I loved the character, Clara Swift, admired her steadfast loyalty and confidence.
I look forward to reading more books by this author.”
—Terry, Amazon.ca Customer FIVE STARS
"Ann Shortell has created a marvellous historical novel on the assassination of one of the most important Canadian Fathers of Confederation, D'Arcy McGee.
The point of view is that of an adolescent girl whose voice is utterly convincing and her own story the centrepiece of the novel.
Whatever Clara sees, hears and otherwise senses is credible and her voice is quite wonderful.
The stakes are high in this novel and we are kept in suspense while learning about life early in the life of the Canadian Confederation.
—Ralph, Amazon.ca Customer FIVE STARS
A good way to experience Canadian history. Great story telling!
—Mary E. Welsh, Amazon.ca Customer FOUR STARS
"Fabulous, well-written, engaging sense of place—and, above all, history.
It evokes the mystery that unfolded after the night in 1868 when Thomas D'Arcy McGee was murdered on the wooden sidewalk, not far from Sir John A. Macdonald's house in Ottawa.
—Author Robert Lewis, Kobo Customer FIVE STARS
"An exceptional book - well researched and an utterly engaging page turner!"
—Author Bill Arnott, Goodreads member, FIVE STARS
"Over the past 50 years, I've owned several cats, all of whom have been named after Canadian historical figures: (Sir Charles)Tupper, (Allen Napier) MacNab, Ikie (Brock), Laura (Secord), Nelly (McClung), (Pierre) Elliott (Trudeau), Fenian, and not least (Thomas D'Arcy) McGee.
So when I saw this novel by Canadian author Ann Shortell based on the real-life assassination of McGee, I was in!
In school, we learned about McGee's death, significant because his was the first political assassination in Canada, taking place just eight months after Confederation. Beyond that and the fact Fenians were allegedly somehow involved, I knew nothing.
Although I realize that the author has taken certain liberties with the facts as in any historical fiction, I am certain that I understand a lot more about the political situation in Canada at that time now that I've read this than I ever learned in school!
Our protagonist is McGee's (fictional) Irish Catholic maid Clara Swift who was the closest to a witness to the murder that there was. Fifteen-year-old Clara is intelligent and observant and it is through her eyes that we see the tangled mess that is motivation for the alleged killer, the investigation, arrest and then trial of Jimmy Whelan.
If you have any interest at all in Canadian history, political or not, I highly recommend that you read Celtic Knot.
Thanks to James who blogs at The Mirimichi Reader who brought this book to my attention, and to the author who kindly sent me a beautiful hardcover copy to read in exchange for my unbiased (except for my love of Canadian history!) review.”
—Book blogger Debby, Goodreads member, FIVE STARS
"I was engaged with Clara from the beginning. She is feisty, smart as a whip and as faithful to her religious beliefs one can expect from a teenage girl.
Certainly, she has more respect for the truth than those around her, and she is determined to find out who is responsible for the death of her beloved former employer.
The language/slang of the time-frame, and of the various nationalities in late 1800's Ottawa Canada, added authenticity to this tale of a fictionalized true event.
I was engaged with Clara from the beginning. She is feisty, smart as a whip and as faithful to her religious beliefs one can expect from a teenage girl. Certainly, she has more respect for the truth than those around her, and she is determined to find out who is responsible for the death of her beloved former employer. The language/slang of the time-frame, and of the various nationalities in late 1800's Ottawa Canada, added authenticity to this tale of a fictionalized true event.
—Regency novelist Kelly Miller, Goodreads member, FIVE STARS
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.
—Book blogger BookSiren, Goodreads member, FIVE STARS
"We are proud to announce that CELTIC KNOT: A Clara Swift Tale by Ann Shortell is a B.R.A.G.Medallion Honoree. This tells readers that this book is well worth their time and money!"
—Book Readers Appreciation Group, Goodreads member, FIVE STARS & their IndieBRAG medal of appreciation
"This historical novel incorporates the actual events with well developed characters and a tension in the plot that keeps readers' interest throughout the novel.
The plight of young women in poverty, without rights or security, is clearly drawn with the strong characters that are part of the plot.
The prejudice against the Irish is often forgotten today but was a large part of the political scene then.
This is a well written novel about an important part of 19th century Canadian history."
—Susan Weintrob, Goodreads member, FOUR STARS
"I kinda know who D'Arcy McGee is because my childhood home is on a street named after him. However, I didn't know he was assassinated nor do I remember ever hearing of Fenians so I don't what that says about my education.
But this is exactly why I had set a goal for myself a few years ago to read more books that take place in Canada and/or feature Canadian characters and/or Canadian history.
So I am thankful for great historical fiction that makes it enjoyable to learn about this stuff! It was a great read."
—Monika, Goodreads member, FOUR STARS
"Ripped-from-the-headlines story about an incident in Canadian history of which I was heretofore unaware.
Written by a relative, it was pressed on me by both my mother and mother-in-law, and I was slow to give in.
Glad I finally did."
—Brian, Goodreads member, THREE STARS