It’s 1835 in Adamant, Pennsylvania. Twenty-two-year-old sheriff Gideon Stoltz faces his first real challenge when his friend and mentor, the respected judge Hiram Biddle, commits suicide. Gideon is regarded with suspicion: he’s new to town, and Pennsylvania Dutch in the backcountry Scotch-Irish settlement. And he found the judge’s body.

Gideon’s quest to learn why Judge Biddle killed himself takes him down a dangerous path into the town’s past. Soon, a murder rocks Adamant. Is it linked in some way to the judge’s death? As Gideon investigates, he must relive the trauma of his own mother’s murder, a crime that remains unsolved.

A Stranger Here Below is the first in a new historical mystery series featuring Sheriff Gideon Stoltz and set in Jacksonian America.

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Deeply imagined and intricately plottedA Stranger Here Below marries richly textured historical fiction with the urgency of a mystery novel.” – Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March

A dark, engrossing tale that introduces a decent, sympathetic hero. The novel’s special strength is its imaginative saturation in the community of Adamant, a violent, haunted place of dreams and visions, a place as hard and unforgiving as its name.” – Castle Freeman, Jr., author of The Devil in the Valley

“A cracking good mystery, and a window to the time when our young country was a wild and treacherous place.” – Scott Weidensaul, author of The First Frontier

“With luminous and deftly sketched prose, Fergus takes us into an American past that is both deeply familiar and utterly strange.” – Jeffrey Lent, author of Lost Nation

Imbued with Michael Connelly’s gumshoe skills and the vivid historical descriptions of Charles Frazier. . . Fergus displays a deft touch in detailing the rough-and-tumble life of 19th-century America.” – Brad Smith, author of the Virgil Cain mysteries

The kind of mystery Lee Child would have Jack Reacher tackle if he placed a story in the 1830s.” – Michael McMenamin, author of The Liebold Protocol 

“A slow, rich novel of a distant time and a man who is ‘Othered’ in most aspects of his life . . . an exploration of the soul in the presence of death and wrongdoing.” – Beth Kanell, New York Journal of Books

I loved this novel. It works as a compelling and complex historical mystery, but it’s more. The characters struggle mightily with the evil around them, trying to find purpose in a world that is frequently brutal and unforgiving . . . The details, whether of a grouse’s feathers or a horse’s gait or burning charcoal for an iron mill, are flawless. Fergus has a curious naturalist’s attention to detail. This is a gem. I hope we see more of Gideon Stoltz in the future.” – Matthew Miller, The Nature Conservancy “Cool Green Science” blog


Charles Fergus has written nineteen books, most of them about nature and wildlife, and one previous novel. Learn more.