I was sent a free copy of Lay This Body Down by Charles Fergus from Skyhorse Publishing. All opinions are my own.
About Lay This Body Down:
Lay This Body Down, the third Gideon Stoltz Mystery, takes place in 1837 during one of the most horrific periods in pre-Civil War America, when human beings were considered chattel and both northern and southern states grew rich from slave labor.
A Pennsylvania sheriff like Gideon could choose to uphold the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 or defy that racist law at great peril. In this hard-hitting, action-packed novel, Gideon tries to protect a boy who has fled north from a Virginia plantation – and pays dearly for his principles.
Written with the vivid, atmospheric prose that imbues the whole series, the life and times of an early American backwoods town and its hardscrabble citizens will grip readers as Gideon and his wife True solve a murder, bust a kidnapping ring, and help one unforgettable boy who courageously chooses freedom above all else.
All purchase links are affiliate links which means if you buy anything through them I will receive a small commission (at no additional charge to you)
You can purchase Lay this Body Down on Amazon.com
About the Author:
Charles Fergus is the author of twenty books. Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Geraldine Brooks called Fergus’s first Gideon Stoltz mystery, A Stranger Here Below, “deeply imagined and intricately plotted . . . Fergus knows certain things deep in the bone: horses, hunting, the folkways of rural places, and he weaves this wisdom into a stirring tale.”
A native of Pennsylvania, Fergus now lives in Vermont’s remote Northeast Kingdom with his wife, the writer Nancy Marie Brown, and four horses. http://www.charlesfergus.com
Praise for LAY THIS BODY DOWN “Set in 1837, Fergus’s fine third Gideon Stoltz mystery (after 2021’s Nighthawk’s Wing) vividly recreates pre–Civil War tensions in the service of a gripping whodunit. . . . Fergus’s plotting matches his superior historical detail. This series merits a long run.” —Publishers Weekly
“In this powerful and moving novel, Charles Fergus shows how far into the supposedly ‘free’ North the fingers of slavery reached in the early 19th century, forcing many to choose between the law and their consciences. Lay This Body Down isn’t just a wonderfully tangled mystery, it’s a window into a time when the nation’s soul was in doubt.”—Scott Weidensaul, New York Times bestselling author of A World on the Wing
“Charles Fergus has an uncanny gift for transporting a reader back into the past, making the historical personal as seen through the eyes of haunted young Sheriff Gideon Stoltz. Lay This Body Down is a tale of richly textured suspense that brings to life the plight of fugitive slaves in rural 1830s Pennsylvania.” —Paul Doiron, author of The Poacher’s Son and Dead by Dawn
“Charles Fergus continues his series of historical mystery novels set on the Appalachian frontier of Pennsylvania before the Civil War. In his account of the remote, often violent community of Adamant, and in the person his young sheriff Gideon Stoltz, the author achieves an imaginative recreation of that time and place, one having color, drama, and authority.”—Castle Freeman, Jr., author of The Devil in the Valley
“Deftly plotted, lyrically observant and casting a keen eye on events of the past that resonate with us today, this third volume places the Gideon Stoltz series on solid ground. Fergus has created a memorable core cast which delivers an engrossing read while leaving me curious as to what comes next.”—Jeffrey Lent, author of In the Fall
“In his new novel, Lay This Body Down, Charles Fergus spins a heartrending and complicated web of mystery and suspense that is uniquely American. A murder has been committed and a young slave boy is on the run from the horrors of his captivity. Both collide in the mind of a novice sheriff who must put the puzzle pieces together before more blood is spilled.
This is a first class murder mystery with a rich flavoring of historical America, but it is so much more. Fergus has taken on the task of addressing the historical context of slavery and the conflict it creates in the minds of his characters. In the hearts and minds of his readers, Fergus will force a contemplation of how each human being’s humanity must be addressed.
Much of this is done through the struggle of the young slave boy, who is at once fatalistic and hopeful about gaining his freedom. Fergus handles this situation deftly and with aplomb. Lay This Body Down is gripping, heartbreaking, and inspirational all at once.”—Jeffrey Blount, author of The Emancipation of Evan Walls
“In Lay This Body Down, Charles Fergus weaves a tense mystery from the tangled fibers of American history. Drawing on the documented abductions of thousands of free Black Americans in the decades between the Revolution and the Civil War, Fergus creates a page-turning tale of evil, exploitation, and the courage to confront it.”—Richard Bell, author of Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home
“Written in the tradition of Eleanor Kuhns, Charles Fergus’s Lay This Body Down is a must-read for fans of the historical mystery genre. Using nothing but his wits, Sheriff Gideon Stoltz, and his wife True, find themselves embroiled in a murder that is deeply entwined with the horrors of slavery.
More than a mystery, Lay This Body Down explores the moral and legal quandary that enslavement presented White Americans enjoying the liberty of their new republic alongside the horrors experienced by those millions of African descent the nation subjugated. Engagingly written, this page turner will leave readers eager for the next Gideon Stoltz adventure.”—Ramin Ganeshram, author of The General’s Cook
“The third entry in this acclaimed series delivers and proves once again why Charles Fergus is a master alchemist, blending genres to create at once a captivating historical drama and marvelous mystery featuring two of the fiction world’s most fascinating characters in Gideon and True, all told with a poet’s eye for the natural world and deep respect for the rural ways of our ancestors.
Meticulously researched and deftly plotted against the abolitionist movement, Fergus renders 19th Century Pennsylvania with the kind of stunning accuracy that suggests he may have a time machine stowed away somewhere.
No doubt you will smell the pipe smoke and pastures, feel your pulse quicken and keep turning the pages well into the night as I surely did.”—Peter Farris, award-winning author of Last Call for the Living and The Devil Himself
It is never easy to read novels that involve slavery – any aspect of it – but I feel they need to be read so that its horrors are never forgotten. So, this is not an easy book to read but not because it is not well written for it is. It is engrossing, fascinating and well worth your time.
BUT, it will not be a light, airy read so be prepared.
Gideon is starting to feel comfortable as sheriff but the times are anything but. He is dealing with the normal problems and complaints that come with the job as well as having to find a way to handle the growing conflicts between White and Black that are mirroring what is happening on a National level.
Things come to a head when several free Black residents disappear and fears are that they are being sold into slavery. It was very dangerous times to take up for Black folk. Free or not.
A compelling, well researched and well written take on a dark time in our history. Rumors of another book in the series abound and I hope they are true.