The Man From Shadow Ridge
Source: Checked out from my local library.
Book Description from Back Cover (modified):
The year is 1863. In the East, the Civil War rages on. The mountains of California seem remote and untouched by the struggle of the young nation.
Tom Dawson thought he left the political and social conflict behind when he joined his brother's little family beneath Shadow Ridge to help his brother run his small ranch. Then a stagecoach is robbed and six people murdered by a gang of Confederate sympathizers stealing Union gold for the South.
Tom and his brother unintentionally place themselves in the middle of the conflict when they take in a now-free slave child whose master was killed nearby. The Confederate sympathizers need certain papers, and they think that the boy knows were they are. And they're willing to kill anyone who stands in their way...
The Man From Shadow Ridge is a historical (with some western elements) set in 1863 in California. The historical details of everyday life and Civil War politics were woven into the story. It's clear that the authors did in-depth research yet the details never overloaded the story or slowed the pace.
The suspense was created mainly by the physical danger that the "good guys" were in. The characters were varied, interesting, and somewhat complex. Tom, his brother, his family, and the local parson were Christians. There were some references to them praying or going to church or believing God would help them, but the Christian element was spotty and not lecture-y.
This novel was the first in a series. While it can stand alone, the ending was a bit quick and left some minor things to be resolved in the next novel. There were a few horse-related practical details that were wrong (including a boy being carried stomach-down over a saddle horn without sustaining internal injury) and parts of the ending felt improbable.
There was no bad language and no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable novel to those who like historical novels.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt from Chapter One
Harness leather groaned as the weary horses leaned into the last steep climb before Granite Station. The wagon was heavily loaded with flour, beans, salt and seed. Two sleeping boys and a bolt of calico cloth completed the freight.
Tom Dawson looked like a man more at ease on the back of a green-broke Indian pony than holding the lines of a team of farm horses. His rugged, sun-browned face was creviced from the weather like the landscape. His dark brown eyes matched the color of the hair that straggled across his forehead from beneath a black broad-brimmed hat. His features had the lean, angular look of a man by no means settled into an easy life, but the small wrinkles at the corners of his eyes betrayed the fact that he smiled on occasion, too.
It was late, past dark already. Tom had expected to reach his stop for the night hours before. The Army quartermaster sergeant who was to have met Tom early that morning had not arrived until midafternoon. The sergeant had sent Tom off with the warning that the stagecoach from Keyesville had been robbed. All five passengers and the driver had been brutally murdered.
Now Tom wished he had camped on the flat along the banks of Poso Creek with other travelers who had stopped for the night. His wagonload of goods might be just as tempting as gold to outlaws hiding out in the lower reaches of the Sierras.