MURDER AT MANASSAS by Michael Kilian


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This lumbering historical mystery from Washington reporter Kilian (Major Washington, 1998, etc.) initiates a new series whose successive volumes, observing chronological order, will be set on key Civil War battlefields. Accordingly, Kilian begins with Manassas (a.k.a. Bull Run), the first campaign of the war. When Harrison Grenville Raines, a good-natured Virginia wastrel living in Washington, is persuaded by actress and adventuress Caitlin Howard, the lady he admires, to escort her to observe the hostilities, the decidedly unmilitary Raines is enlisted to investigate the mysterious death of a Union Army officer whose reputation as a gambler and a coward has left him coldly mourned by comrades who suggest that he deserved his death. The truth is somewhat more complicated than that, as the resourceful Harry, a gambler in more senses than one, eventually discovers in solving the crime and learning some truths about his own manhood. Along the way he encounters an impressively top-heavy cast of characters, whose fictional creations share space with such historical figures as John Wilkes Booth, Clara Barton, detective extraordinaire Allan Pinkerton, and President Lincoln. The story creaks and groans under the weight of Kilian’s obviously diligent research, but it has real substance, if less style, and the series seems on the whole a promising notion.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-425-17233-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Berkley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2000


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