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A gifted young black man calling himself Victor has struck a bargain with federal law enforcement, working as a bounty hunter for the US Marshal Service. He's got plenty of work. In this version of America, slavery continues in four states called "the Hard Four". On the trail of a runaway known as Jackdaw, Victor arrives in Indianapolis knowing that something isn't right - with the case file, with his work, and with the country itself.
A mystery to himself, Victor suppresses his memories of his childhood on a plantation and works to infiltrate the local cell of an abolitionist movement called the Underground Airlines. Tracking Jackdaw through the back rooms of churches, empty parking garages, hotels, and medical offices, Victor believes he's hot on the trail. But his strange, increasingly uncanny pursuit is complicated by a boss who won't reveal the extraordinary stakes of Jackdaw's case as well as by a heartbreaking young woman and her child, who may be Victor's salvation. Victor himself may be the biggest obstacle of all - though his true self remains buried, it threatens to surface.
Victor believes himself to be a good man doing bad work, unwilling to give up the freedom he has worked so hard to earn. But in pursuing Jackdaw, Victor discovers secrets at the core of the country's arrangement with the Hard Four - secrets the government will preserve at any cost.
Underground Airlines is a groundbreaking novel, a wickedly imaginative thriller, and a story of an America that is more like our own than we'd like to believe.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Mark on 10-29-17
Original and disturbing novel
The first half of this story was interesting but only mildly engaging. In this revisionist historical novel, the Civil War was not fought, and there is still slavery in the modern day deep south. The narrator is a black man who captures runaway slaves in the north (doing the devil's work, as he describes it). The novel has a slow noir feel to it and a very original premise. I was intrigued early on. The novel gets more engaging and faster paced in the second half, when we learn more about this slave catcher. When the story moves into slave territory in the south, it is at its most disturbing and most riveting. This is a novel that stayed with me after I finished it. It was worth the listen!
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
By Kenneth J. Katschke on 07-11-16
Interesting what if...
Imagine a USA without a civil war and slavery was still legal in 2016. This is the premise of Underground Airlines. It's an interesting way to frame and examine racism today and how it may not be all that far removed from that distant past, and it's intimate connection. The story is like a crime novel, and it moves along nicely. I recommend the story.
William DeMerrit is excellent. Each character is uniquely and expertly performed. I look forward to hearing his other work.
20 of 22 people found this review helpful