Fifth in the hauntingly rich Abel Jones Civil War series, following Honor’s Kingdom and the more recent non-Jones Our Simple Gifts: Civil War Christmas Tales (2002).
For many, Owen Parry (a.k.a. retired Army intelligence officer and defense policy analyst Lt. Col. Ralph Peters) is a writer dropped from heaven whose grit sweeps forward on a Welsh/Irish bardic flow (“Perhaps she even loved the wicked man. For love is a land without maps, akin to death,” or “The moon wore a bandit’s mask of cloud to rob the sky of stars”). The new Parry explores a lost area of the Civil War, the effect of immigrant Germans, Welsh, and sons of Erin on the war’s outcome, since these new Americans filled out the ranks that turned back the Confederate tide and, in fact, saved the North. Not surprisingly, Lincoln turns to 34-year-old Major Abel Jones, a Welsh immigrant and Union Army detective, to carry out his personal intelligence directives and solve murders that often revolve on prejudice—and Jones himself has plenty of prejudices. The story focuses on Irish miners in the author’s home area around Pottsville, Pennsylvania, where some rioting miners didn’t want to serve Mr. Lincoln, having no urge to be the same cannon fodder they’d been for the British in India. (In fact, Lincoln later absolves these wildmen from the draft.) As ever, Jones faces a ghastly rotting corpse, in this case a vilely stabbed young woman’s. She’s been buried in place of Daniel Boland, who confessed to murdering Union General Stone (Stone had been looking for draftees in this area); then Boland died the same day of cholera and was “buried” in the Catholic churchyard. Lincoln wants to know who murdered his general, and Jones wants to know who murdered the mystery girl.
Parry clearly loves writing about earlier generations on his native turf, and this time he gives us greater suspense than in Honor’s Kingdom.