Crossing the Line

A hundred years after the War of the Rebellion, or the War for Independence as it is called in the Confederate States of America, the South has developed into a race neutral society with slavery long nationalized and under the control of the notorious Ministry of State Servitude. The new, liberal Confederate President Jimmy Carter is seeking to end the long cold war with the North and improve relations with Kaiser Frederick, ruler of the most powerful nation in the world, the German Empire.

Against this historical backdrop three people, U. S. intelligence agent Northrop McLean, young beautiful Confederate exile Ansley Mason, and Underground Railroad conductor Thaddeus Lynch must learn to work together to prevent a conspiracy that could destroy both nations.

This, in brief, is the plot of Peter Pauze’s alternate history thriller Crossing the Line. While the historical premise seems wildly implausible (I’ll accept the Confederacy’s eventually ending slavery under international opinion, but considering that it took federal intervention to end Jim Crow I simply cannot believe that the descendants of slaves and slave-owners would be treated as equals in a country that seceded precisely to keep those slaves in bondage), but the story is exciting with a plot twist every chapter. Then, towards the end the reader learns that none of the main characters is precisely who they said they were with double and triple agents revealed.

That, in fact, is the only weakness in the story, the way in which too much is uncovered in the last chapter. Still, the plot leads up to the climax fairly well, with enough hints along the way, that this is not a deadly weakness. I can recommend Crossing the Line as an alternate history thriller equal to any that Harry Turtledove has written and I hope that Peter Pauze will be encouraged to write more.

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