Soul Catcher by Michael C. White
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
"Soul catcher" is a nice way of putting "fugitive slave catcher" - although I'm not sure why people who own slaves would think their property has a soul. Anyway, Cain (yep, he's marked) is the first son of a smallish farmer, slated to marry a beautiful belle but he chooses instead to go fight in Mexico, where he's wounded. He's now estranged from his family and catches souls for a living. He also has a tidy little laudanum addiction, he drinks, and gambles badly.
To resolve one debt, he agrees to head north to find two slaves: Henry and Rosetta. The former is a field hand, the latter is someone quite special to her owner. There are two brothers and an evil man named Preacher included in this posse. Of course, they find the slaves and head home, with all the attendance fuss and run-ins with abolitionists (including THE John Brown).
During the course of the book, Cain realizes that Rosetta has a soul, one worth saving for real. So he decides to do the honorable thing and send her to the Free States (or Canada), putting his own life in danger. My guess is that we're supposed to applaud his ethical choices and feel comfortable with his "salvation". Except... it seemed too pat. It didn't surprise me in the least that he would change his mind, that he and Rosetta would take care of each other, etc.. As historical fiction goes, this plays into our current thinking about slavery and freedom, not how people thought back then, with characters that are relatively one-note.
ARC provided by publisher.
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