North Star Conspiracy

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Glynis Tryon is the central figure in this novelized account of fleeing slaves, the Underground Railroad, and the hostile atmosphere of the years leading up to the Civil War. The time is 1854, when the furor caused by the Fugitive Slave Law as at its height. As a librarian in the town of Seneca Falls, Tryon is hesitant to engage in the smuggling of runaway slaves into Canada, reasoning that the law, even if unjust, must be obeyed. Her friendship with the feminist pioneers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, however, prepares her to help to hide a young black woman, Kiri, who has been spirited away from a Virginia plantation by a young white man, Niles Peartree, who is in love with Kiri.

Two murders, one of a freed slave, the other of a bounty hunter searching for the runaway woman, create a mystery which Tryon is instrumental in solving. She helps spirit Kiri to a temporarily safe haven in Rochester, she travels to Virginia to play a major role in Niles Peartree’s trial for stealing Kiri, and she returns to Seneca Falls in time to figure out which local citizens have committed the murders and passed to federal marshals the identities of escaped slaves.

Monfredo’s history is accurate and the clandestine nature of the attempts to assist fugitive slaves creates considerable suspense in this novel. The pervasive and poisonous effects of the law that enable escaped slaves to be pursued anywhere in the United States are made clear. Despite the inclusion of several tangential elements that create diversions without advancing the plot, NORTH STAR CONSPIRACY succeeds as both mystery and historical novel.