The River of Souls, McCammon’s fifth book in the Matthew Corbett series, takes Matthew out of New York once again and down to the Carolina Colony outside of Charlestown. After not taking on any “problem solving” assignments for quite a while Matthew is forced into a seemingly easy task – accompanying a young woman in Charlestown to a dance and being paid quite the sum by her father to do so. Matthew finds it odd that they need to pay so much, and search so far away, for a date but surmises it is because this woman is so ugly she cannot find a date closer to home. Of course, if this were true the book would not be particularly interesting. It turns out that the young woman is essentially being stalked and her stalker, Magnus Muldoon, keeps challenging anyone else who pursues her by either running them out-of-town or murdering them.
No such thing, of course, happens to Matthew and he is able to use his intellect to humiliate Magnus into leaving town for good. If this seems slightly unbelievable, which it is, you have to suspend disbelief just one more time as Matthew decides to track Magnus down and turn him into a gentleman for no particular reason. It is once Matthew reaches Magnus’ house that the story begins to get interesting. On a nearby plantation three slaves are accused of killing of killing the master’s daughter and escape up a supposedly cursed river, with the towns people, Matthew, and Magnus in hot pursuit, seeking either reward money, justice, or truth.
Once Matthew sets up off the river the story really gets interesting. Like the rest of the Matthew Corbett series Matthew is placed in a series of life threatening situations that seem next to impossible to escape. It is compelling reading to see just how he saves himself, yet again.
I had high hopes for this book when I began reading it. My favourite book in this series (and one of my favourite books ever) is the first book, Speaks the Nightbird, so I thought leaving New York might bring the series back to its former glory. Unfortunately, that was not to be, I still enjoyed The River of Souls, just not nearly as much as I hoped. In order to drive the story forward one must make a couple of leaps of faith, believing certain plot points as plausible when they actually make very little sense. Oh well, I am willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good story. The story drags a bit until the murder happens and then it becomes a much more compelling read. I did enjoy the recurrence of three characters from earlier in the series, one whose appearance seems pretty insignificant, one who I hoped was dead, and one of whom may be very important in the next book of the series.
Overall, the book was pretty good, but not as great as Sings the Nightbird (but what is, really?).
Price: Free! (from the library)
Genre: Historical mystery
Lost in that story? Towards the middle of the book.