Sunday, March 17, 2019

A Stranger Here Below by Charles Fergus

It's always interesting to read other reviews after I've reviewed a book for a journal. While I was fascinated by Charles Fergus' A Stranger Here Below, other journals found it slow going and did not recommend it. I have to admit my family history leads back to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, so I found this mystery intriguing.

At twenty-two, Gideon Stoltz is a little young to be sheriff of Colerain County, Pennsylvania in 1835. Because he's Pennsylvania Dutch, and not from Colerain County, he's viewed as an outsider, a foreigner, even though he married a local woman. His only friend, and his mentor, is Judge Hiram Biddle. Gideon's lost and confused, though, when he finds Biddle's body, and the man committed suicide. His own faith forbids suicide, and he can't understand why a man would kill himself.

When Gideon reads the judge's journals, he begins to wonder if the man was brooding about a hanging that occurred thirty years earlier. When he tries to ask questions about the local history and the hanging, Gideon is mocked and jeered at, even by his wife's relatives. Despite warnings, Gideon is stubborn and probes into the past history of the community. A murder, and two disreputable strangers that show up in the county convince the sheriff that the truth may lie in the past.

A Stranger Here Below is a leisurely paced historical mystery. It has an atmospheric setting, and a strong sense of place. The book introduces a religious, reflective man with a strong sense of right and wrong, and duty. It's a book filled with the rich details of life, including the tragedies of life in this early period of U.S. history.

A Stranger Here Below by Charles Fergus. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2019. ISBN 9781510738508 (hardcover), 272p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.


Diane said...

I will be interested in trying this book mostly because his mother lived for many years around the corner from us. He had left home by the time we moved in so I never knew him although he was a classmate of my younger sister. His mom was certainly a well loved fixture in our neighborhood and we all were encouraged by her to buy his first books so many years ago.
Sadly she was murdered in her home in 1995(?) by an acquaintance of her son whom she had tried to help. Such a shock for everyone who knew her. And such a shock to have such horrible violence just a few doors away.
I am sure Charles is well acquainted with tragedy and can write from his own experience.

Lesa said...

Oh, Diane. That is so tragic. I'm sorry.

Bonnie K. said...

This looks really good.

Lesa said...

I hope you enjoy it, Bonnie, if you get a chance to pick it up.