Death in the Great Dismal:Eleanor Kuhns
This is the second in the series that I have read, and this focuses on Will Rese as he accompanies his black friend, Tobias on a journey that will take him deep into the great dismal, danger, dealing with the terrain of the swamp and the home to a small community of escaped slaves. With Lydia his wife at his wide, and still not truly trusting him after straying with a circus performer in the last novel, she refuses to remain at home. Murder follows him and he has a great ability to assess the facts, very perspective as the journey begins.
The main theme is slave trade and Tobias were a sold but now he must search for Ruth and in a black population in the swamp where suspicions run high and danger even higher. These people have escaped and are free for now and the swamp houses are both free Black and runaway slaves. The trip is hot, filled with bugs and snakes on the way and Lydia and Will stop at nothing until they help Tobias but the unthinkable happens just when they are getting settled. The author describes a canal that is being built by slaves and the canal builders. These are escaped slaves.
There is also the conflict between Rees a weaver and Lydia who has the Shaker Faith and she is still worried that he wants some more freedom to be on his own. Tobias’s wife Ruth does not want to return with them and leave the Great Dismal Swamp, but they do not know why. Added in Scipio is murdered. He is an escaped slave who had numerous enemies and Rees is determined to find the killer.
The people are extremely tight and yet they manage to state who they think killed Scipio: Neptune, Tobias, and where is his brother Cinte? Ideas are passed around and others from the plantation are questioned by Will as he decides it is up to him to solve the murder but then something happens before the funeral. The body is stolen, and they have no idea where it is.
Tensions rise as a young girl named Sandy comes with her child who is seriously ill and Aunt Suke the most powerful person in the swamp has the medical skills to make him well. But tensions rise when the body is stolen and then another man Neptune is accused of the murder but claims he is not guilty even though he disappears and runs away at times.
Will assessed the men at the camp and describes them as such: Toney the oldest, Jackman the quietest, Cinte and Neptune violent and Neptune lost his money and wanted to somehow get it back but how?
Rees has no ill will towards Scipio, Neptune or Peros. But the murders or attempted ones are not over as Neptune saw something and someone decided he was next by having a snake bite him. When Will stands over him and is supposed to watch him at night he falls asleep and Neptune is dead the next day but who drugged him and with what? Everyone is a suspect and Will is determined to talk to them all but finds resistance at every corner added in Sandy leaves her child with Aunt Suke and she just wants her to make a life with Cinte, but she sees something in him that alerts her and will not allow herself to become his wife. Added in he wants her to give up her child and let it be raised by someone else?
There are lies, secrets, betrayals, murders and the author takes us deep inside this black community. Yet you can tell the loyalties they have to each other and the fact that they share their food, their tents and their amenities with Will and Lydia who joins the women in their tasks, and Will who take his life in his hands when he agrees to go and find Jackman, find Quaco who disappears all the time and yet we find that he is another victim of this killer. Three men and two saw something that caused a dangerous killer to want them silenced. A gun shot to the first man, poison to the second and Quaco the third will he survive? Will realizes who might be the one to have killed Scipio and to get the reward for the body you must present it. However, where is the body, what about what he realizes about how Neptune was killed and how and when will he be buried?
Neptune came out of the men’s cabin around the back. Scipio was dead and Neptune is dead and Quaco is fighting for his life. Aunt Suke is checking on her patient in the cabin and she has been boarding the night Scipio’s body was stolen.
Then a trap is set for the killer and you will not believe who it is and why? The ending will shock readers as the author takes the killer down a path he will never forget, and the revelation will bring a twist you will not expect. The swamp is vividly described, and you can smell the stench, feel the stings of the bugs and the smell of the bath water used by so many at the same time and yet somehow you wonder how they all stayed alive and not sick.
The author leaves us wondering where Will and Lydia are headed, what about Tobias and Ruth and what will happen to Sandy and her child? Living in the Great Dismissal is not where any of them belong? What is next? A story of love, distrust, racial tension, slave traders, betrayals, hope and survival.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews