DEAD MARCH by Ann McMillan


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On the eve of Virginia’s nervous preparations to join the Confederacy, Charley Wilson, a Richmond medical student pressed into service as a grave robber in order to satisfy Hampden-Sydney’s need for anatomical specimens, sees that the latest corpse his little group has dug up did not go gently into that good night. The young black woman, allegedly a slave who died of childbed fever, has been buried without the baby who supposedly killed her but with a strangling strip of cloth jammed down her throat. Eager to confide the grisly discovery to his widowed sister, Narcissa Powers, Charley begins a letter to her, but before he can send it, he’s struck down by a fatal case of erysipelas, and Narcissa arrives at his side just in time to hear him utter a single word, “resurrection,” before he dies. What further knowledge did Charley take to his grave? Why have the other “sack-’em-up men” in the nocturnal party suddenly started to suffer the same fate as the woman they exhumed? And what can Narcissa, condemned to idealized inactivity as the flower of southern womanhood, do about it? Joining forces with two equally determined women—her sister-in-law Mirrie Powers and free black conjure woman Judah Daniel—Narcissa struggles to learn the truth about this corpse before the battle of First Manassas provides Hampden-Sydney with thousands of replacements. Historian McMillan’s first novel is a rewarding period piece that mixes decorous tableaux out of Margaret Mitchell with unflinching glimpses of slavery, surgery, and the horrors of war and sudden death.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-670-88147-3
Page count: 212pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1998


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