The late Ramsay’s second and last adventure for Jesse Sutherlin (Copper Kettle, 2017) brings his hero home from the Great War to a world unknowingly on the brink of further disaster.
Life has been good to Jesse since his homecoming. He and his wife, Serena, have moved down from Virginia's Buffalo Mountain into the neighboring town of Floyd, which boasts a school that goes “clear to the twelfth grade” for their four children. The R.G. Anderson mill where Jesse works is booming, with more orders for hardwood than it can fill. Old man Anderson is looking to retire and has even suggested to Jesse that he might sell at a good price. But Sheriff David Privette brings news that rocks Jesse’s world. A body found in the local ice house belongs to Jesse’s father, who allegedly died of Spanish flu while Jesse was off fighting in France. In spite of the sheriff’s warnings to leave the cold case alone, Jesse asks his remaining family members for more details. His brother, Abel, remembers that the man who brought the news had ill-fitting clothes and a glass eye, leading Jesse to the local shantytown to search for the down-on-his-luck messenger. His search puts him at the wrong end of a Lee and Enfield rifle. In the meantime, Serena goes on a search of her own at the local public library, where she discovers a book on economics. Soon his wife’s excursions into debt load and loan-to-value ratio rival Jesse’s quest to find his father’s killer in promoting the mountain family’s awareness of just how dangerous the world can be.
Ramsay’s final salute to his hero, completed by his friend and admirer Dana Stabenow, is a fitting conclusion to a career spent chronicling the exploits of hardworking folks in rural America.