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As the trial begins, John quickly realizes that not everything is as it appears in the genteel city of Charleston. A series of mysterious fires in white establishments brings the state militia, a curfew for the black population, and rising tension at the courthouse. To unravel the city's secrets, Sharp must enter Charleston's plantation society, where he is befriended by Tyler Breckenridge, owner of the Willowby plantation, and his beautiful sister Clio.
Set against the backdrop of a nation headed toward civil war, Fire Bell in the Night is a page-turning account of a trial and one young reporter's efforts to discover the truth.