1 out of 4 stars
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Bedford Forrest Rides Again by Terence Cady is set in Crosstown in rural Texas. It follows County Sheriff Travis Boudin as he uncovers the mystery surrounding a dead child found decomposing near a river. He is joined by Bobby Hicks, an aspiring reporter with personal ties to both Crosstown and the murder. The title refers to a character who claims to be descended from the Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, who owns the van depicted on the cover. The plot points included in the novel are dark, almost excessively so, and include child trafficking and domestic violence.
From a narrative standpoint, Cady has a somewhat poor grasp of the murder mystery genre. Nearly all of the uncertainty surrounding the murder is revealed through scenes with the main antagonists in the first half of the book, effectively stripping the mystery from the story. As a result, the protagonists must spend time figuring out things the reader is already aware of. This seems like an attempt at dramatic irony, but in reality, it just means that the novel's pacing drags severely in places.
Cady also seems preoccupied with pushing his own opinion of Deep South "culture" - by which, of course, I mean endemic racism. This is completely glossed over throughout the story, and while some characters talk about African Americans, no character with more than a few bits of dialogue is actually African American. This wouldn't be quite as problematic if the plot hadn't revolved around civil war reenactments. Cady even goes so far as to include a protagonist internally referring to how Confederates of the civil war fought for a "sacred cause" during one scene.
While at first, I was willing to give the book the benefit of the doubt, I was repeatedly appalled at Cady's disrespect for both women and minorities in his narrative. There are a grand total of two female characters that are fleshed out significantly. Both have incredibly traumatic pasts, and they each really served only to further their male counterparts' stories.
I struggled a great deal with rating Bedford Forrest Rides Again. While its writing style was functional, and the plot was mostly coherent, I was really only compelled to keep reading out of a horrified fascination. Ultimately, I chose to rate it 1 out of 4 stars. I believe it failed as a murder mystery book, but it still has some merit; it exposes the violent and misguided beliefs that still surround the Civil War in some rural areas of the southern United States. I would recommend it only to people who are interested in understanding these extremely skewed perspectives. I would not recommend it to anyone simply looking for an exciting mystery novel, and especially not to anyone without enough context to understand complex social issues like racism and misogyny.
Bedford Forrest Rides Again
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