In the South before the Civil War, the citizens of Greenbriar, Louisiana, are trying to cling to the life they understand. Unlike the other planters, Tom Edmunton, who spent time in the North, is reaching for the future. He is convinced that his invention, a tractor, will lead to a new age in agriculture where slaves no longer work the fields and technology will bring increased prosperity; but not everyone in Greenbriar, Louisiana sees it that way.
Senator Wiley Barnwell hopes to have Tom for his son-in-law. He hauled the tractor to Crossroads, his deceased sister-in-law's plantation, so Tom could escort his wife and daughter to the funeral. That night the tractor disappears and someone stabs Wiley in the chest killing him. Ted Cooper, who was trying to buy Crossroads, was found bending over the body with bloody hands. Tom is convinced that stealing his tractor was the motive for the murder. Cooper feared the machine and wanted to destroy it, but is Tom right, or was there another motive for murder?
The old South comes to life in this historical novel. The plot is full of twists, and the message, trying to cling to a way of life that's passing, is excellent. However, the writing is pedestrian. Conversations often read like information dumps, and the pace is slow. The characters are stock Southerners: the honest sheriff, the dishonest politician, the spoiled beauty, and the beautiful slave.
I can recommend this book if you looking for a historical novel about the South before the Civil War. The murder mystery is an added benefit, and the underlying theme, struggling to hold on to a way of life that's passing, is well done. It is also a cautionary tale for today.
I reviewed this book for Net Galley.