“That angel that kept us from Paradise? She was doing us all a big favor.”
So says the strange old man in the cemetery to Nelson Hannon, the weary archeologist who has returned one evening to the Iowa town of his boyhood. But is this paradise? Nelson doesn’t think so. He is still persecuted by the mystery of what happened to the young woman he sent into the night, many years ago.
Alma Foster, the young woman in question, was the member of a traveling troupe of musicians that appeared one day in Zion, Iowa, in the early 1960s. She was given shelter in the home of Nelson’s family, a trust he betrayed by sneaking into her bedroom. Afraid that Nelson would repeat his predations a second night, Alma flees through the window, to wander the dark streets of Zion.
By morning she is gone, forever.
Wracked with remorse, Nelson is not the only one who is haunted. The streets and alleys of Zion are filled with the ghosts of those who passed through: the Mormons on their Trail to that greater Zion, runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad to freedom, John Brown, and Jesse James.
Before the story is over, and the mystery is solved, Nelson Hannon will encounter these phantoms, too.
As one reader comments, the author has blended “mysticism, religion and history into a beautifully suspenseful tale.”
And the words of the hymn “Land of Pleasure” sum it up well:
‘There is a Land of Pleasure
Where streams of joy forever roll;
That’s where I have my treasure
And where I pray I’ll rest my soul.’