THIEVES OF MERCY by James L. Nelson


A Novel of the Civil War at Sea
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Confederate naval action on the Mississippi in a sequel to Glory in the Name (2003).

Nelson’s hero, Confederate Lt. Samuel Bowater, lost his ship when the Union forces seized New Orleans, sealing off the mouth of the Mississippi. Now he and his crew are ordered to Memphis to man an ironclad being built to oppose a Union takeover of the entire river. They travel upriver on a gunboat commanded by a brawling frontiersman named Mississippi Mike Sullivan. Bowater, a cultured Charlestonian, is appalled by Sullivan and his drunken crew of river rats. But Bowater’s promised ironclad is barely half-built, and so he and his men join forces with Sullivan in raids upriver against the Union naval forces threatening Memphis. In between, Bowater helps Sullivan write a dime novel about his adventures, stealing a plot from Shakespeare. Meanwhile, back east in Norfolk, Bowater’s fiancée, Wendy Atkins, decides to travel west to join her lover. Her resourceful aunt Molly, a Confederate spy, takes Wendy under her wing to help her escape. But to find a way out of Norfolk, then under siege by the Union, they need to call in a favor from the Confederate navy, undertaking one last spy mission. With Wendy in tow, Molly brazenly poses as a Norwegian diplomat’s wife, makes her way aboard a launch carrying none other than Abraham Lincoln, and returns with the needed intelligence. In making their escape, the two arouse the ire of a Union officer who decides to capture them as the only way to redeem his honor, delaying them just enough to miss their ride out of Norfolk. The two women now find their fates bound up with that of the Virginia, the Confederate ironclad best known for its battle with the Monitor.

Realistic combat, rowdy humor, and tense adventure, all combined in a well-researched historical that’s authentic and enjoyable.

Pub Date: April 12th, 2005
ISBN: 0-06-019970-9
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2005