Captain Harrison Hull (The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis, 1993) is commissioned by no less than ex-President Thomas Jefferson to discover what's happened to George and Ambrose, former slaves of Jefferson's. The slaves--cousins of Jefferson's supposed longtime mistress, Sally Hemings--have disappeared from the farm of Jefferson's nephew, Lilburne Lewis. When Harry arrives at Lilburne's Kentucky farm, he's warned by Lilburne's neighbor Jonah Hibbs that he's in danger. Right. Following a tip that George and Ambrose are in nearby Loganville, Harry is almost killed in a river accident; set upon by a pair of numbskulled ruffians evidently hired by forgettable Machiavelli James Ford; poisoned nearly unto death by Lilburne and his brother; and rescued from the gates of death only by three of Lilburne's remaining slaves--whom Lilburne then promptly accuses of killing George and Ambrose. Luckily for Harry, who isn't much of a detective, a real-life earthquake--the second of two with a decisive role in this fact-based tale--will resolve the halfhearted mystery before anybody else can have a whack at him. Less Sherlock Holmes than buckskin Rambo, with blandly eventful adventures among nondescript backwoodsmen filling the gaps between documented historical events.