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Faded Coat of Blue Hardcover – October 5, 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (October 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380976420
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380976423
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #615,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A colorful, scrupulous and unassuming sleuth named Abel Jones is the protagonist of this solid historical thriller set during the opening months of the Civil War. When a crusading abolitionist is found murdered in 1861 in a Union encampment near Washington, Jones, a convalescing casualty of First Manassas, presently assigned to desk duty, is tapped by the Union's newest general, George B. McClellan, to discover the killer and bring him to justice. Although Jones is the most modest of menAa teetotaling Welsh immigrant, a Methodist and stout moralistAhe's a veteran of some of the bloodiest battles of the century, as a former solider in Britain's Indian army. Modeled on the best qualities of such famous detectives as Hercule Poirot and Sherlock HolmesAwith a little Miss Marple thrown inAJones is small of stature and hampered by an injured leg, but he is a courageous man and seeker of truth. Decrying injustice everywhere, from child prostitution to military atrocities, the humble do-gooder proves a daunting foil for an assortment of villains, including McClellan himself. The first-person narrative is infused with ingeniously authentic and varied period patois, artfully drawn cameos and historical portraits. Whenever Jones issues a narrow assessment of people according to their national or racial background, he does so in accordance with typical period attitudesAno revisionist political correctness here.. Sometimes unwittingly funny, Jones's narrative voice is a feast of fine language and well-rendered dialectical precision. This splendid novel whets the appetite for the promised next volume and the continuing adventures of the modest hero. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

In a winning blend of history and mystery, Parry brings to life Civil War Washington, D.C., and environs through the eyes of an exceptional Union soldier. Welsh immigrant Captain Abel Jones, who is keeping accounts in the War Department in Washington in late 1861, seems a mild-mannered man who'll follow orders. General McClellan personally enlists him to investigate the highly publicized murder of Anthony Fowler, a shining star of an officer and an ardent abolitionist. But Jones is more seasoned than he seems, having learned the horror of war in bloody hand-to-hand combat in India before being crippled at Bull Run. Suspicion for the murder rests first with the rebels, then with an industrialist making handsome profits from the war; but answers are to be found closer to home, and Jones turns out to be more tenacious and incorruptible than his seniors might have imagined. Parry shows corruption and hypocrisy on one hand and love of country on the other in this vivid glimpse of our past (which is also the first in a promised series). Michele Leber

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Customer Reviews

I look forward to reading subsequent books in the series.
Amazon Customer
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Civil War era or lovers of good mysteries.
Ben Cheney
Great story, very, very well written, and fantastic characters.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By "bpeters@drytownantiques.com" on May 18, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a reader with a lifelong interest in the Civil War, I was absolutely knocked out by this incomparable novel. I have never found the atmosphere and character of the Civil War era so accurately portrayed--beyond which, the writing itself is superb. Mr. Parry has a flawless ear for dialects--yet he never overdoes it. The book reads very quickly, and leaves the reader hungry for more--as all the best books do. From the portrayal of wartime Washington to the joys and sorrows of a soldier's life, this book rings truer than any other I've read. And Abel Jones is one of the most interesting characters I've encountered in a lifetime of reading. This book is also a mystery, of course, but I valued it just as a terrific story and a wonderful portrait of our past. I do, however, have to take issue with one of the other reviewers who criticized Mr. Parry for mentioning the Thanksgiving holiday a year before it became an official national holiday. In fact, it's Mr. Parry, the author, who's correct. Parry never said Thanksgiving was a national holiday at that point in 1861, only that it was widely celebrated, which was absolutely true. As a former history teacher myself, I can assure all readers that Thanksgiving was very widely celebrated prior to the Civil War, especially in the North. Parry's portrayal of the unofficial celebrations in the Army of the Potomac in 1861 are completely accurate, and the historical records support it. In New England, it was already an established family holiday, with reverential tones. In the Union Army, it was a great excuse for getting drunk. When Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday later in the war, he was simply formalizing a celebration that already had a long tradition. Overall, Mr.Read more ›
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Stuart A. Herrington on March 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
No doubt about it. Owen Parry could never fake it this convincingly. He is a former soldier(as his brief bio betrays), a keen student of history, and one who has somehow embraced the investigator's art. Add to these qualifications a gifted pen that enables Parry to craft page after page of captivating prose, and you have the ingredients of the best fiction I've seen in years--historical or otherwise. "Faded Coat of Blue" is a thoroughly delightful, page-turning work, made even more valuable by its skilled embodiment of every literary trick in the book, combined with remarkable historical accuracy. (Parry's detailed, visceral description of the streets of Washington during the Civil War is nothing short of masterful.) As a career investigator, armchair historian, and writer, my hat is off to Parry. In creating the continuing adventures of Captain Abel Jones, he is giving us the literary equivalent of the Ken Burns PBS series, "The Civil War." Bravo!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on December 28, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Reading this wonderful historical novel took me back to the days of my youth when I devoured Charles Dickens. Parry, like Dickens, excels in drawing characters that lodge in the mind. The Welshman Abel Jones, whose language is a haunting blend of Celtic melancholy and memory; the lovable ne'er-do-well Malloy, as ready to lend a helping hand as he is to pinch your purse; Cawber, the tycoon from the wrong side of the tracks who punches his way through high-bred and old-monied society: these and a couple of other characters come across with pulsating vividness.
There's another similarity to Dickens here: Parry is much better at drawing characters and weaving beautiful language than he is at plot. The mystery that Captain Jones sets out to crack is a bit implausible, and the novel ends too breathlessly. Yet when weighed against Parry's marvellous characters and poetic prose, this seems a piddling sin. Who really remembers the plot of *Great Expectations*? But who can forget the characters of Pip, Joe, Miss Havisham, or Magwitch (Pip's criminal benefactor)? The same can be said about "Faded Coat of Blue*. Long after the details of the rather thin plot are forgotten, Parry's characters will remain in our memory. And for my money, that alone makes this novel well worth reading.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this novel immensely. With a background in history, I tend to be picky about details. I did not find one error in the historical setting of this book, which indicates a great deal of research. I suspect the author may be a moonlighting historian himself. The atmosphere is just terrific--you can smell and feel Civil War Washington--and the plot kept me guessing until the very end. But the best parts of the book were the characters--even the secondary figures seem vivid and convincing--and the quality of the writing. Although the book is easy to read, the language is poetic. I'm not an expert on accents, but they rang true to me, as well. Great dialog. The historical figures live and breathe, but Abel Jones, the narrator, is the real treasure of the book. A great personality, quirky, cantankerous, and quietly admirable. In summary, this book is first-rate from page one to the end, and well worth picking up, whether or not you normally read mysteries or historical fiction. I noticed it because of the review in the Washington Post and was not disappointed. I await the next book in the series. A fine reading experience!
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