Dread Tribunal of Last Resort

Written by Brian Kaufman
Review by Rebecca Cochran

In 1861, Decker Brown returns home to Richmond, Virginia after having spent two years studying rocketry and illumination science in Boston. Decker has big dreams to open his own fireworks business and marry his sweetheart. The outbreak of the Civil War puts a damper on those plans, though. Strongly opposed to slavery, and defying his father, Decker decides to head west. He would rather join up with the Yankees, betraying his fellow Virginians, than fight for a cause he can’t support.

This is the story of the consequences of Decker’s decision. It details the horrors of the war, his travels, plights, and heroic endeavors. Kaufman weaves in a lot about illumination and fireworks, adding a bit of sparkle to a rather dark plot. This is also the story of Paula, on the home front, torn between two men she loves, and her attempts to find some semblance of a normal life amidst a worn torn city.

Kaufman does an impressive job detailing the inner conflict of each character. Paula loves Decker, but she cannot understand why he would choose to turn against his fellow Virginians and fight for the enemy. Decker struggles with this choice as well but remains stolid and determined to fight for liberty and freedom for all men. The pace is quick and speedy; the story spans the full length of the war and even into post-war life despite its mere 300-odd pages. With a lot of lively secondary characters, there’s a lot here for readers to enjoy. Recommended.