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Once upon a time, Darrell Henshaw saw dead people. Or rather, one specific dead person: his uncle. When Darrell was just 13, Dead Uncle Ed sat on the end of his bed and warned him not to go joyriding with his brother the next day – and not to let his brother go, either. Darrell only half-believed in ghosts in general or Ed in particular, so he only half-paid attention to that warning. Darrell didn’t go, his brother did, and his brother lost some toes to hypothermia and his chance to play varsity sports.
Darrell is an adult now and has been for a while. He’s also the new football coach and history teacher, at crumbling Williams High School in the very tiny town of Wilshire, Maryland. He believes it’s his job to bring a high school championship to the school in its final year in its old building. But the ghost that haunts the halls of Williams High School has other plans for the new coach. Ghost-sensitive Darrell is the spirit’s one last chance at revenge before the walls of the place where he was murdered come tumbling down.
Blood on the Chesapeake is, first and foremost, a ghost story. Darrell is haunted by the ghost of a young black man, just as the entire school has been for over 50 years. The ghost moves objects in Darrell’s office, operates the staff copy machine, and generally appears all over the school, but most frequently in Darrell’s office and the widow’s walk outside his window, the place where the young man supposedly hanged himself. But there are also plenty of people who hint that there is more to the story, and it’s that search for more that drives Darrell to uncover the truth, through a search of primary sources and historical records that is both fascinating and meticulous at the same time. In that search, readers will experience both the joy of discovery and the despair of what is revealed. It seems that some things are even worse than imagined.
The truth that Darrell unearths is one that the entire town has shrouded in a cloak of silence – and shame. After all, even in the early 1960s, lynchings were terrible things that happened in rural areas of the Deep South, not in suburban Maryland.
As Darrell dives deeply into history, the real history, he learns that it happened there and that the attitudes and beliefs that caused that young man’s death are alive and well – as are the men responsible for that death. Men who will do anything to protect themselves. After all, they’ve already committed one murder. Why not more?
While the hauntings of the high school and its coach are certainly the chilling stuff of which nightmares are made, it’s the truth that Darrell uncovers that is the real terror. Terrible things could happen there – and did happen there. And they were covered up there because history is written by the victors. In this case, the survivors and the victims have no voice.
Blood on the Chesapeake is a haunting story about the lengths and depths that one man will go to finish his unfinished business. If revenge is a dish best served cold, this time that revenge is served with the chill of the grave.