No Bottom: Masey Baldridge/Luke Williamson Mystery

James D. Brewer, Author Walker & Company $19.95 (249p) ISBN 978-0-8027-3178-4
Life along the Mississippi during Reconstruction makes a stunning background for this dramatic historical mystery that echoes the works of Mark Twain and Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind . Luke Williamson is co-owner of the Paragon and the Mary Justice , two packet steamers that carry passengers and cargo up and down the Mississippi. When the Mary Justice sinks eight miles north of Natchez, apparently having struck a treacherous sand bar or sunken tree, the cargo, passengers and captain, who is Luke's good friend and visionary business partner, are lost. Luke can't understand how Ed Smythe, a seasoned pilot, could have run aground or why the ship wasn't able to limp into port. Upon learning that Ed had taken out an $8000 bank note against their company, Luke realizes that unless he can clear the partnership's name, his ownership of the Paragon is threatened. To avoid foreclosure, he plans a daring final run downriver at the beginning of ``low water'' season, while the mystery of the Mary Justices' s exploding boiler is explored by alcoholic insurance-claim investigator, Masey Baldridge. Brewer fashions the uneasy alliance between Williamson and Baldridge and the tensions of the post-Civil War South into a fine historical novel with a fully satisfying conclusion. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
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