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Lay This Body Down

A Gideon Stoltz Mystery

Published by Arcade Crimewise
Distributed by Simon & Schuster
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About The Book

"Richly textured historical fiction with the urgency of a mystery novel. Fergus knows certain things, deep in the bone: horses, hunting, the folkways of rural places, and he weaves this wisdom into a stirring tale.” – Geraldine Brooks, author of March and People of the Book and Horse

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.

About The Author

Charles Fergus is the author of seventeen books. The book review editor for Shooting Sportsman magazine, he has written for publications as various as Pennsylvania Game News,Audubon , Country Journal , Gray’s Sporting Journal , Yale Review , and the New York Times . A Stranger Here Below, his first mystery, is influenced by the personal tragedy of his own mother's murder. Fergus lives in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom with his wife, the writer Nancy Marie Brown, and four Icelandic horses.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Arcade Crimewise (February 14, 2023)
  • Length: 312 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781956763447

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Raves and Reviews

Praise for LAY THIS BODY DOWN   “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   
In Praise of Nighthawk's Wing:

"A beautifully written page-turner...a rich and moving story that puts Fergus solidly among the ranks of Vermont’s best fiction writers.” –The Barton Chronicle

“Set in 1836, Fergus’s superior sequel ... brings the period to life as he expertly melds setting and plot. Eleanor Kuhns fans will be pleased." Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Nighthawk’s Wing is the second in author Fergus’s mystery series set in the 1800s in Pennsylvania Dutch country. It is an accomplished crime novel, unraveling truths as Gideon questions witnesses about the last days of Rebecca’s life and eliminating falsehoods as he pieces together evidence and observations. It keenly reflects on attitudes and grievances held by members of different religions, cultures, and native languages and suspicions of women unwilling to be confined by their expected roles. It also warmly details time and place and finely depicts tensions between a husband and wife in grief. The narrative stokes Gideon’s restless guilt and captures Rebecca’s tumult in the form of an imaginary nighthawk companion. More than a down-to-earth procedural, Nighthawk’s Wing takes flight."Historical Novels Review

“What a fantastic book! Strong, well-drawn characters, rich attention to natural detail, and a haunting narrative make this a series to get excited about.” – Paul Doiron, author of the Mike Bowditch Mystery Series
  
“This beautifully written mystery combines harsh realities with moments of sheer wonder. A murder mystery that has at its heart a praise hymn to America’s rural past.” – Patricia Bracewell, author of the Emma of Normandy trilogy

"Nighthawk’s Wing is a marvel. A rich story, masterfully told. Fergus has such a fine eye for details of landscape and period that both rooted me in a very familiar place, but an unfamiliar time." – Scott Weidensaul, author of A World on the Wing
 
“Spellbinding historical fiction. Fergus is a wonderful writer who will entrance you with his sense of time and place.” – Kate Flora, author of Death Comes Knocking
 
“An intricate mystery alive with well-paced narrative and brutal realism.” – Castle Freeman, Jr., author of The Devil in the Valley
  
“I absolutely loved Nighthawk’s Wing – I read it straight through in one day, and it’s haunted me ever since.” – Kristen Lindquist, Tourists in the Known World
  
“High-tension, high-stakes law enforcement and crime solving in a fascinating culture of immigration, frontier, and survival in early America.” – Beth Kanell, author of The Long Shadow
 
 “An atmospheric page-turner . . . I was borne away by Nighthawk's Wing, and you will be too.” – Edith Maxwell, author of the Agatha Award-winning Quaker Midwife Mysteries
 
“A darkly engrossing tale in which a young sheriff struggles to understand and unravel not only the workings of the complex and dangerous souls he encounters, but his own tortured soul as well.” – Jeffrey Lent, author of In the Fall

“A fresh and original take on the historical mystery, Nighthawk's Wing fills the stage with characters whose concerns will resonate uncannily with those of twenty-first century readers.” – Tim Weed, author of A Field Guide to Murder and Fly Fishing

“Fergus’s measured pace, rich with the feel of the raw, unsettled landscape and its fragile human bonds, provides a depth to the double mystery: the crime, and how to reinvent a marriage after a child's death. Not until the very end of the book will the answers become clear—and the pain and loss along the way are vivid and visceral. In the tradition of Jeffrey Lent’s In the Fall, Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, and even Nathaniel Hawthorne’s early American novels, NIGHTHAWK’S WING melds human frailty and strength into the very texture of the place and time, creating a mystery that will call for multiple readings that savor its layers and revelations.”—Kingdom Books review

"I found myself rushing through--or maybe even ignoring--necessary tasks to return to Fergus’ book and Colerain County. I appreciated being fully engaged in the book’s fictional world, especially because it has stayed with me long after finishing the story."—Elaine Meder-Wilgus, BookMark, WPSU Public Radio

In Praise of A Stranger Here Below:
 
“Some writers are natural story tellers and have an instinct for the reader’s interest. Others have the ability to invoke mood or a sense of place. Still others are able to handle landscape or have the ability to invoke precise imagery. Every now and then you will find a writer who has all of these qualities, and because of that they invoke the magic of fiction. They make the chair you are sitting on disappear.  Charles Fergus is one of those writers, and A Stranger Here Below is one of those books.  – Craig Nova, author of All the Good Yale Men and The Good SonThe kind of mystery Lee Child would have Jack Reacher tackleif he placed a story in the 1830s.” – Michael McMenamin, author of The Liebold Protocol “Deeply imagined and intricately plotted, A Stranger Here Below marries richly textured historical fiction with the urgency of a mystery novel. Fergus knows certain things, deep in the bone: horses, hunting, the folkways of rural places, and he weaves this wisdom into a stirring tale.” – Geraldine Brooks, author of March and People of the Book
 
Imbued with Michael Connelly’s gumshoe skills and the vivid historical descriptions of Charles Frazier, A Stranger Here Below is a stark procedural set in the backwoods of Pennsylvania circa 1830. Charles Fergus displays a deft touch in detailing the rough and tumble life of everyday 19th-century America.” – Brad Smith, author of The Return of Kid Cooper and the Virgil Cain mysteries
 
“With luminous and deftly sketched prose, Charles Fergus takes us into an American past that is both deeply familiar and utterly strange, through the eyes and thoughts of a young man who is a stranger to his newly chosen community. Sheriff Gideon Stoltz patiently unravels a series of crimes and secrets, while also examining his own life, his past, and the beauties and tragedies of life itself.” – Jeffrey Lent, author of Before We Sleep and In the Fall
 
 “A dark, engrossing tale that introduces a decent, sympathetic hero in the young sheriff Gideon Stoltz. The novel’s special strength, however, is its imaginative saturation in the community of Adamant, a violent, haunted place of dreams and visions, a place as hard and unforgiving as its name.” – Castle Freeman, Jr., author of The Devil in the Valley
 
“In Gideon Stoltz, Charles Fergus has created a unique 19th-century Eastern lawman who struggles not only with wrongdoers but with his own griefs and travails. A Stranger Here Below kept me reading late into the night.” – Dan O’Brien, author of The Indian Agent and Stolen Horses
 
“Fergus puts you firmly in Gideon Stoltz’s rough-hewn world where a ‘foreigner’ with the wrong accent has to watch his back even if he wears a sheriff’s badge. A cracking good mystery, and a window to the time when our young country was still a dark and treacherous place.” – Scott Weidensaul, author of The First Frontier
 
 “Charles Fergus’s gifts for invoking time and place empower him to tell an irresistible tale of extraordinary people and the past that haunts them.” – Paul Schullery, author of The Time Traveler’s Tale and Diamond Jubilee
"[A] rich novel of a distant time and a man who is “Othered” in most aspects of his life . . . Although the book is clearly crime fiction, it is equally an exploration of the soul in the presence of death and wrongdoing. Which is, after all, what a “stranger here below” can expect." -- The New York Journal of Books

"A writer of nonfiction about the natural world, Fergus brings his appreciation for nature to this well-paced blend of mystery and western. Gideon is a classic lawman, tough when he has to be but able to weep when an influenza epidemic rips through town, leaving empty cradles in its wake. An appealing debut that deserves a boost from enthusiastic hand-sellers."--Booklist 

“Simply put, I loved this novel. It works as a compelling and complex historical mystery, but it’s more. The characters struggle mightily with the evil around them, trying to find purpose in a world that is frequently brutal and unforgiving. But they carry on. They find meaning in their connections to others, in song, in following dogs into thickets. Their lives are perpetually caught between beauty and violence, compassion and cruelty, love and hate. . . . The details, whether of a grouse’s feathers or a horse’s gait or burning charcoal for an iron mill, are flawless. Fergus has a curious naturalist’s attention to detail. This is a gem. I hope we see more of Gideon Stoltz in the future.” —Matthew Miller, Nature.com, The Nature Conservancy blog

"If you've grown tired of formulaic mysteries and thrillers, then you're in for a treat with A Stranger Here Below . . . The characters are built not from cliches, but through Fergus's deft descriptions of their thoughts, desires, and secrets, all while creating a tone that keeps the reader entranced . . . A pleasure to read. -- Elaine Meder-Wilgus, WPSU's BookMark

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