Seventeen Coffins

Another outing for time traveller Tom Afflick. You’d have thought he’d have the sense to stay away from Edinburgh after his close brush with the bubonic plague in 1645. But oh no, here he is again, visiting the National Museum of Scotland, where he has a funny turn near the tiny coffins found on Arthur’s Seat almost two hundred years ago.

Philip Caveney, Seventeen Coffins

Philip Caveney saw them, too, and he wanted to write about them, to explain how the coffins came to be there on the hill, and who made them, and what they were. And there is no better way than through time travel, when you can go round in circles. If this hadn’t happened, then neither would… etc, etc.

Sometimes it can be hard to unravel what ties up with what. And Tom travels back and forth between his own time and the time relevant to his current adventure, in this case 1828.

When stranded in the past like that, Tom needs somewhere to stay. What he also could do with is better judgement than to pick the company of a pair of well known and very dodgy characters.

He also needs friends, which he is more successful with. Daft Jamie is a very interesting young man, who I would have liked to see more of. And there’s another nice girl for Tom. One girl in every century?

Like in Crow Boy, the characters behave the way modern people do, and they certainly don’t talk like historical characters. While it removes some of the period feel, it probably helps young readers to identify with the – by now – dead people Tom meets. At least the food he eats is nicely and historically rotten. And he stinks, due to a lack of daily showers.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating; it is much more fun to learn, not to mention easier to remember, history like this. Put real incidents and people into a fictional story, and before you know it, you could be a history buff.

As for Virgin Pendolinos taking you from Manchester to Edinburgh… well, this is a work of fiction, after all. Philip is allowed to make things up.


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