When his father dies after being convicted of a hit-and-run felony, Dennis, his mother, and sister move back to the old Shandonay estate in Virginia. There Dennis picks up yet another burden of ancestral guilt when he learns that his late uncle, the town newspaper publisher, was a notorious local bigot and, worse, that black activists at a nearby college have stirred up the memory of Simon Shandonay, a slave catcher supposed to have chained his prisoners in a cave on the family property. Dennis's need to win the acceptance of the black kids in town could be appreciated as a measure of how the South has changed, but Dunne doesn't let him solve the problem on his own. Instead she drags in that creaky, overworked deus ex machina, the Underground Railroad, which it seems Simon Shandonay really served while pretending to hunt slaves. Aside from perpetuating a romantic (to whites) notion of how the Railroad typically operated, the revelation, which is delivered climactically by an old black neighbor, simply isn't preceded by the sort of suspense and seat-of-the-pants detection that the title leads readers to expect.