First off, don't even think about reading this 500+ page plantation “slavery gothic” drama unless you've read and recall the first book of the series, “Master of Blackoaks” (1976). You'll be lost.
In the second 'Blackoaks', “Secret of Blackoaks”, crime and western author Harry Whittington (writing here as Ashley Carter) tells another compelling story of love, lust and violence among slaves and masters on the Alabama plantation of Blackoaks. This book begins about a year after the previous installment's conclusion. The novel is broken off into six sections with each focusing on a handful of characters from the first book.
There's a lot of travel happening in this volume - with action occurring in Tallahassee and New Orleans. Much of the drama concerns the Fulani slave brothers Blade and Moab with the central antagonist being plantation master Styles Kendric - in full, unhinged villain mode.
The story-lines were generally strong with the exception of one character's side adventure to New Orleans that felt a bit like page filler. But even that section pays dividends with a dramatic twisty conclusion.
There's also more action (think “Django Unchained”), graphic sex and violence than we saw in the first novel and the introduction of some fantastic new characters - including an abolitionist veteran in a decaying nearby plantation who may or may not be helping slaves find escape and freedom. A feisty new slave also enters the mix providing a reality check on the horrors of the institution to complacent counterparts.
Overall, this was another great outing from the King of the Paperbacks. If you read and enjoyed Blackoaks #1, you're sure to enjoy this installment. And with the strong and violent ending of this second book, you'll be dying to tackle the follow-up novel.
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