THE TRUE CAUSE OF DARKNESS by John W.  Bebout

THE TRUE CAUSE OF DARKNESS

A Story of the Civil War
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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut novel, a teenager from the Shenandoah Valley tries to save his family during the Civil War.

In the course of a few days, 16-year-old Teddy Miller watches the destruction of his family farm by Union soldiers, narrowly avoids getting killed by them, and learns his father—who claimed to be going to town for supplies—has likely been arrested or executed as a spy. Leaving his younger brother with neighbors, Teddy sets off for the Yankee camp to learn his father’s fate. A brutal fight with a Union soldier lands him in the hospital, where he discovers his father is alive but in prison. He also meets Pinkerton detective Kate Warne, who convinces him to help her gather information on the Golden Knights, the local group his father had been working with, to reveal who killed Union Lt. Thomas Ferguson. Teddy and Kate endure more chases and brushes with death than most mortals face before reuniting in Washington City to share the limited information they’ve acquired with Ferguson’s dad. Having fulfilled his promise, Teddy expects to see his father but finds he must travel to Key West, Florida, to visit him before he departs for Fort Jefferson to serve a 30-year sentence. The cliffhanger ending suggests a sequel may be forthcoming. Bebout deftly explores the complexities not only of war, but of family and neighbor relationships as well; the differences between right and wrong are not always clear. The author has created a strong protagonist who effectively evolves from a naïve teen into a determined, resourceful man. Secondary characters are also well-developed, particularly Teddy’s younger brother, Jed, and family friend Malcolm Davies, although the Union soldiers who burn down the farmhouse personify virtually every Yankee stereotype. Kate’s and Teddy’s ability to survive when confronted by innumerable adversaries is unrealistic but makes for a thrilling, suspenseful read. The ending should pique readers’ curiosity as to what comes next in Teddy’s intriguing story.

An engrossing and intricate war tale with a rousing young hero.

Page count: 204pp
Program: Kirkus Indie
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