Author: Ray Chen Smith
Genre: Alternate historical fiction
Published: June 2012
Publisher: Ray Chen Smith
Pages: Oversize paperback, 351
Opening Lines: "Della crouched behind the shrubs, held onto Cece, and prayed they hadn't been noticed."
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"It is 1924—sixty years after the South's victory in the Civil War.
"Frank McCluey, bounty hunter for the mob, is sent to help out a wealthy Virginian bootlegger. Frank's job: track down two female slave who've run away from the millionaire.
"But the mob has made a bad choice. Instead of capturing the women, Frank decides to help them escape to Canada, his mission now aided by the pint-sized but steel-willed runaway Della and the outlawed Underground Railroad.
"Soon Della and Frank become the target of slave catchers, cops, gangsters, and most chilling of all, a Confederate agent nicknamed the Hound for his abilities to always sniff out and disembowel his prey."
~ Jacket copy
Thoughts: I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. And, to be honest, I was not sure what to expect. Since I have a minor in history, the concept behind this book was extremely interesting. For a long time, I always wondered what would have happened if the South and successfully seceded from the nation. Smith does a wonderful job showing that throughout the whole book!
This book opens with Della and Cece hiding in some bushes right after they ran away from their master. After years of abuse—both physical and sexual—Della has decided they need to try one last time to runaway from the Monster. However, unbeknownst to them, their master, a wealthy whiskey bootlegger, has hired the help of a mob bounty hunter and his assistant. Frank McCluey is known for his reputation as a former boxer. Once on their trail, a series of adventures start, which end with Frank helping the two young women escape to freedom.
The book is broken down into four sections. Each section, minus the last, takes part of approximately a week's time. All of the chapters are told from the POV of either Frank, Della, sometimes Cece, and the Hound. These different vantage points gives the audience a unique look into each character's mind and shows how they are dealing with the situations they are facing. It also allows the author the opportunity to flesh out the characters on their own. Seeing the Hound from everyone else's POV was interesting; however, he is far more sinister, sick, and messed up when you are able to get inside his own head.
I appreciated that Frank and the girls each had their own back story. It added depth to the characters; however, he didn't waste a lot of time trying to fully tell the audience those stories. The fact that they were there and a few tidbits were dropped was enough to add some dimension. However, he was still able to pull a few punches with the back stories. For example, Della's history was perfect! Even though I suspected it, I loved how it was able to pack a punch at the end of the book.
The little details in this book were sublime! The fact that the FBI was actually the BI (Bureau of Investigations) due to the South being an independent nation, the border crossing between the southern and northern states, the lock down on the Canadian border, and so on, were perfect details. These things show that Smith put a lot of thought into the consequences of the South winning the war of Southern Independence.
I loved the interaction between the two women and Frank. In Cece, it was a good way to show how she was able to grow in her circumstances and move away from her horrible past. All around, I thought it was a great way to show growth in the characters. While Frank seemed to be tough-as-nails veteran boxer, he turns out to be a big softy.
Even though I enjoyed this book, it took me sometime to get through. The short chapters make it feel as though the book is flying by; however, it was rather dense and took me a little longer than usual. That being said, this book was a success!