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Book Review: Murder on the Underground Railroad

Author Craig Pennington is back once more to delve deeper into the story of his ancestors and bring their experiences to life. With a dominant focus on Indiana County history, the 294 page book draws upon various primary and secondary sources to weave together a thriller of epic proportions. The themes contained in the story are incredibly relevant today and proves that the times may change, but human nature remains the same.

Murder on the Underground Railroad is a fast-paced thriller that jumps between multiple storylines and perspectives throughout the book. Everything ends up weaving together and converging at the end. The book begins with a series of unfortunate murders and wastes no time tossing the main characters into the fray. The book follows James Moorhead, a rising newspaperman and abolitionist, in his attempt to solve the murders. Accompanied by his friend, Dr. Robert Mitchell, the duo takes on sinister powers at work in the small Western Pennsylvania town. The experience brings both men, and the community, closer together and prepares them to play a significant role in the future battle for freedom.

The book does several things well. For one, the look and feel of nineteenth century Indiana County and Philadelphia is captured in sight, sound, and smell at a detailed level. The foul stench of death permeating through the streets or the cold dampness of the jailhouse seems to emanate from the book itself. The pacing was also the best out of the series, revealing each important bit of information while also respecting the intelligence of the reader— allowing them all the pieces necessary to solve the murders on their own by the end of the book. The novel breathes life into each historic character and provides them with a believable voice and agenticity. The historical setting is also well done, with various references to maps and other documents from the period.

Although the book is well researched, the story itself leans more towards the fictitious element, slightly altering the fabric of history to fit the story. A secret society quickly becomes suspect of the crimes committed, despite not having an active chapter in the area at the time the story took place. With that being said, the author does do a fine job of acknowledging this fact in the historical notes section of the book, being upfront and honest with the reader. Other than that, the criticisms are few and far in between.

Overall, the novel is a solid contribution to the story of the Moorhead family. The history may not be exact; however, the novel does the best job it can to make it believable and exciting. History is a series of stories and Craig tells an excellent one. This novel is available for purchase on Amazon and in the Society’s gift shop. Get your copy today and delve into the fascinating narratives of Indiana County’s past.

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