Review

South of Shiloh

by Chuck Logan

Chuck Logan is known primarily for his Phil Broker novels, but
his latest offering is not one of those. SOUTH OF SHILOH is a
dramatically different turn for Logan, a book that surprises with
its page-by-page richness, depth and ability to transcend its
genre.

The story is set in one of the most interesting areas of the United
States --- northern Mississippi in the vicinity of the Tennessee
border. It begins with the death of Paul Edin, an insurance
salesman from Minnesota who is participating in a Civil War
reenactment of the Battle of Kirby Creek near the Mississippi town
of Corinth. Logan’s attention to detail with respect to what
goes into the preparation for participation in a Civil War battle
reenactment is worth the price of admission here all by itself. But
the ultimate focus is Edin, who finds himself in the wrong place at
the wrong time, inadvertently taking a bullet meant for Kenny
Beeman, a local police officer.

That bullet was fired by Mitchell Lee Nickels, whose marriage into
the prosperous and influential Kirby family ultimately cannot
overcome his background and heredity, which includes a feud with
Beeman’s family that goes back at least one generation. Edin,
as we learn in beautifully understated dribs and drabs, was a
solid, dependable and decent man, raising a 10-year-old daughter,
Molly, who he knew was not his own. Edin’s widow, Jenny, had
been discussing with him shortly before his death how they were
going to approach Molly with the news concerning her
paternity.

Jenny is literally on the verge of bringing John Rane,
Molly’s biological father, into the discussion when she
learns of her husband’s death. Rane is a well-known news
photographer, and, as we come to learn, something more. While he
could face the open end of a gun barrel armed with nothing but a
camera, he could not confront the duties of fatherhood and left
another man to do so. Though Edin’s death is officially ruled
an accident, the result of an apparent negligent misfire by an
accidentally loaded gun, Rane decides to conduct his own
investigation. Traveling to Corinth, ostensibly to do a photo
feature on the Civil War reenactments and Edin’s death, Rane
meets up with Beeman and forms an almost immediate kinship with
him, forged in the sudden death of a man whom neither knew well but
to whom both owe much for different reasons, which have common
elements nonetheless.

As their investigation into the circumstances of Edin’s
shooting confirms that Edin was indeed the victim of a bullet meant
for Beeman, the men begin to take different paths toward a
single-minded pursuit of justice and retribution. There is more
going on here, however, than the book reveals at first blush.
Nickels’s sins are many, and as they are slowly uncovered,
they also come back to haunt him in ways he cannot anticipate. As
the novel proceeds steadily toward a suspenseful, pulse-pounding
climax, debts are paid but not without cost.

SOUTH OF SHILOH is a deep, quiet masterpiece, one that should find
its way onto many “Best Of” lists for this year and
bring Logan the focus and attention he has long deserved.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

South of Shiloh
by Chuck Logan

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0061136697
  • ISBN-13: 9780061136696