THE SWORD OF GENERAL ENGLUND by Donald Honig
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THE SWORD OF GENERAL ENGLUND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In a remarkable change of pace, Honig, best known for baseball fiction (Last Man Out, 1993, etc.), has produced a wonderfully haunting tale of military crime and punishment on the American frontier. When word reaches Washington in the spring of 1876 that General Alfred Englund has been savagely murdered in the dead of night within the confines of his remote command (Fort Larkin in the Dakota Territory), there is shock but little surprise in the US Army's officer corps: Few of his colleagues expected that this magnificently mad avatar of the Union Cause would meet a normal end. A warrior who inspired considerable awe, Englund had supposedly once had his sword struck by a lightning bolt as he hurled it heavenward while rallying troops on the eve of a Civil War battle. Although the facts suggest that Englund and a corporal of the guard who was found stabbed to death at the same time were both butchered by a senior officer at Fort Larkin, a local board of inquiry cannot identify the killer. Under direct orders from President Grant, Captain Thomas Maynard (who'd been helping to plan the celebration of the nation's Centennial in Philadelphia) is sent West to bring the assassin to justice. A blooded up-from-the-ranks veteran of the Civil War, Maynard has a guilty secret of his own. In the course of his discreet investigation into the coincidental deaths, he learns that most of Englund's senior officers (who were preparing to march against Northern Plains tribes resentful of the gold rush that had defiled their sacred Black Hills) had reason to fear and hate their commander. By patiently sifting through the evidence, the outsider is able to solve the mystery of Fort Larkin and its dangerously evangelical commander. A thoroughly adult Western that addresses great themes--duty, honor, and losses of innocence--within the context of an absorbing, suspenseful narrative.

Pub Date: March 4th, 1996
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Scribner