When Johnny comes marching home from the Civil War, someone murders him.
Four boys, friends since the childhood they shared in the tiny Vermont town of Jerusalem’s Landing—Jubal Foster, Abel Johnson, Josiah Flood, and Johnny Harris—suddenly find their backwater lives disrupted. Full to the brim with idealism and innocence, they march off to fight in a good war, the War Between the States, that turns out to be the bloodiest in American history. When the shooting stops at last, one is dead, another has lost an arm, and Johnny comes marching home to Jerusalem’s Landing to find an enemy as implacable as any of the gray-clad warriors he’s been up against for four years. There’s one difference, though: This enemy is successful in his battle with Johnny. As newly appointed deputy constable in Jerusalem’s Landing, one-armed Jubal Foster must solve his old friend’s murder. But things have changed drastically after four years of brutalizing war. Jubal now knows a dark, even monstrous side of his old friend Johnny that makes him almost sympathetic to his killer. Still, Jubal is a man of unassailable integrity. He understands the dictates of the job, and he’ll get the answers, even if he hates what they imply, even if they bring him disturbingly close to the young woman he loves.
Heffernan (The Dead Detective, 2010, etc.) swings his vivid tale back and forth between past and present, war and peace—a neat tour de force he pulls off with admirable assurance.