By the author of The Master of Scare Hollow, and many other books with 19th century American settings, this story gives a ringside view of the race between the Robert E. Lee and the Natches in 1870. Matt Parham starts as a spectator waiting to see the boats leave from New Orleans on their run up the Mississippi to St. Louis, then finds himself hustled along as an assistant engineer on the Lee. The early part of the race is followed from the engine room, which makes things rather confusing for readers unable to understand the intricacies of leaking pipes. As the boat loses speed the book picks up, for it turns out that Matt has supersensitive eyes and he is needed to help guide the Lee through difficult maneuvering in the foggy nights. The suspense of the race is evident in this convincing reminder of an historic event.