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Sisters of Cain Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 2001


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Miriam Grace Monfredo's Seneca Falls, New York, produces some extraordinary women, chief among them Glynis Tryon (1999's Must the Maiden Die, et al), the librarian turned early feminist detective, and Tryon's nieces Bronwen and Kathryn Llyr. Sisters of Cain, the seventh in Monfredo's series, takes place in 1862. The more conservative Kathryn is determined to nurse the wounded of the Civil War and hence travels to Washington to join Dorothea Dix's squad of Union battlefield nurses. Bronwen, the fiery redhead lately canned by the Pinkerton Detective Agency, has joined forces with Rhys Bevan, the chief of detectives at the U.S. Treasury Department. The Pinkertons, as it happens, comprise the Union's spy network from Washington southward. By the time of the action, they have been entirely compromised by secessionist sympathizers within the U.S. government, pressing the Pinkertons (who are professional detectives but amateurs at spying) into deep cover, the deep South, and deep trouble.

"Since your contact was one of those named on that page, you may also be known. The upshot of it," Rhys added, "is that I can't send you back there. Which, at least temporarily, gives me no agents in Baltimore."

She knew him too well to take this as a callous remark. No matter how it sounded, it wasn't a lack of agents in Baltimore that had so disturbed him, but their violent deaths.

The Union's most immediate concerns are launching its ironclad, the Monitor, to meet and nullify the South's just commissioned Merrimac, and taking the war to the South with General George McClellan's Virginia Peninsula Campaign. And it is in and around both of these events, and amongst Monfredo's well-drawn characters both real (McClellan, Dix, Bevan, Lincoln, et al) and imagined, that Bronwen and Kathryn must prevail.

Fast-moving, tightly written, and more than enough historical accuracy, feminism, spy craft, romance, and mystery for almost any reader, Sisters of Cain will no doubt find its way to a wide variety of bedsides. And if the detective-fancying-Civil-War-buff fans in those beds enjoy this, they should also try John Jakes's On Secret Service. --Michael Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The author's chronicling of the mid-19th century moves deeper into the Civil War period in this seventh Seneca Falls mystery (following Must the Maiden Die), which provides a marriage of history and mystery with a sharp and sharp-witted feminist viewpoint. Adventuresome Bronwen Llyr continues to flaunt convention as she moves from detective to spy, joining up with Treasury Chief Rhys Bevan's fledgling Special Intelligence Force in Washington, D.C. Her more conservative sister, Kathryn Llyr, also comes to Washington, hoping to win a job as a nurse under Dorothea Dix. Both sisters end up coping with great danger and interacting with historical and fictional characters as they play major and minor roles in the Virginia Peninsula Campaign of 1862. Monfredo's historical accuracy provides a solid foundation for the exploits of both sisters. Bronwen makes forays into Confederate territory and conducts a battle of wits and wills with spies, counterspies and traitors. And Kathryn, though rejected by Dix, finds scope for her talents dealing with the ravages wrought by disease and also gets caught in the eddies of her sister. Monfredo's skillful characterizations of historical figures (Lincoln, General McClellan, Dix, etc.) blend easily with her fictional creations. And her insights into the race to develop ironclad ships (Merrimack and Monitor), to woo British and European allies and to develop essential information-gathering units nicely flesh out this intriguing novel, which should appeal to Civil War buffs and mystery fans equally. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reissue edition (August 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425180921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425180921
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,105,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Miriam Grace Monfredo lives in western New York State, the scene of her critically acclaimed Seneca Falls Historical Mystery Series. She is a historian and a former librarian. Monfredo's first novel, Seneca Falls Inheritance, Agatha nominated for Best First Mystery Novel 1992, is set against the backdrop of the first Women's Rights Convention held in 1848. Since then she has written eight more novels that focus on the history of America and the evolution of women and minority rights. Her latest book, Children of Cain, is the third volume of a Civil War trilogy set in Washington D.C. and Virginia, during the Union's 1862 Peninsula Campaign.

Monfredo's Brothers of Cain was awarded the 2001 Herodotus as the year's Best Historical Mystery. She is the recipient of the 2000 Career Achievement Award for Historical Mystery Writing by Romantic Times. Her second book, North Star Conspiracy, was chosen for the statewide 2002 "Alaska Reads A Book" program; it was also chosen by the Alaska Association of School Librarians for the 2002-03 "Battle of the Books" motivational reading program . North Star Conspiracy was also chosen for the 2005 Brookline Reads The Same Book in Massachusetts, and by the 2005-2006 Central New York Reads Consortium.

The Voice of Youth Advocacy selected her fifth book, The Stalking Horse, as one of 1998's best adult mysteries for young adults. She was the recipient of the 1996 Writing In Rochester Award presented by Writers & Books.

Her short fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies,including two Best of the Year collections, and she is the co-editor of two historical mystery anthologies.
Monfredo occasionally teaches writing workshops at Rochester, NY's literary locus, Writers & Books. She lives on historic Irondequoit Creek with three dogs and two cats, and hosts a motley gang of itinerant mallard ducks.

Customer Reviews

Nevertheless, this book is great fun to read.
Elke Hamel
Her sister, Kathryn, is a nurse who is turned away by Dorthea Dix for being too young and too pretty in spite of her nursing experience.
P. Bigelow
The book leaves a lot of stuff up in the air, so that means I can't wait to read the next one "Brothers of Cain".
S. Schwartz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on September 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In the second year of the Civil War, people from all types of lifestyles throughout the divided country contribute to the war effort. In Seneca Falls, New York, Glynis Tyrone tries her best to contain a local typhoid epidemic. Her two nieces, Kathryn and Bronwyn play a more active role to help their beleaguered nation. Washington DC hosts many southern spies while the government includes numerous southern sympathizers.

Kathryn becomes a nurse working in the field with the Northern army while Bronwyn serves as an intelligence agent behind enemy lines working for the Treasury Department. In Virginia, Bronwyn breaks into the home of a renowned physician who is a rabid secessionist. She finds incriminating evidence exposing high-level federal officials working for the confederacy, but these conspirators now know Bronwyn needs to be eliminated before she can do any more damage.

Anyone who wants to attain a real feel for the early years of the Civil War needs to read SISTERS OF CAIN. The audience will taste petty politics, military maneuvering and posturing not always on the battlefield and surreal Hoover-like expectations of pending victory just around the corner. Miriam Grace Monfredo creates an exciting historical mystery that includes sensational characters with mainstream appeal. Waiting for a Ms. Monfredo novel requires discipline in the art of patience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Elke Hamel on March 11, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book was the first one I ever read from Miriam Monfredo and I hadn't heard fo the Seneca Falls series yet. So I was glad that there were only few cross references to the other books of the series.
"Sisters of Cain" has its little weaknesses, e.g. when the main character Bronwen tries to get through enemy lines, an old friend of hers (who incidentally is of Native American heritage AND a scout) appears out of the blue and helps her avoid the Southern troops. No explanation is given why this person is at this particular spot at this exact time.
Nevertheless, this book is great fun to read. The suspense in the story is increasing until almost the end, so I had a hard time to ever put it aside. The fact that it combines fiction with history made even more interesting, particularly because the story integrates two issues that are probably not well known in public. No. 1) the existence of women spies on both sides. No. 2) the fact that female nurses only started to be accepted in public hospitals and the military. (By the way, nuns in European convents played a major role in nursing for centuries before - but nobody seems to acknowledge this.)
I'm looking forward to reading the next books in the series, the brothers and the children of Cain.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mel Powell on March 26, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
What makes Miriam Grace Monfredo's novels works of art, more than any other factor, is that the reader is there, immersed in the era and the setting. In "Sisters of Cain," you aren't reading about 1862 Richmond, you are in 1862 Richmond. The characters are vivid, to the point where when there's a movie version someday, if you've read the book you'll recognize the characters on sight. And characters like Bronwen don't behave like the cliched portrayals of demure, silent women of literature dealing with this era...they are real, even as they are different, sometimes wonderfully quirky, but always real.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By watzizname VINE VOICE on February 27, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Glynis Tryon and Seneca Falls make only a cameo appearence; most of the action is in Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia and points between. The main character is Bronwen Llyr, Glynis' neice and a Union spy; and to a lesser extent, Bronwen's sister Kathryn, a nurse. There is adventure aplenty, and as usual, Monfredo brings American history alive, so you learn about it without even trying.

Great fun to read, and educational too. What more can you ask?

watziznaym@gmail.com
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By tregatt on October 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately this is not a Glynis Tryon mystery novel. "Sisters of Cain" features instead two of Glynis's neices: Bronwen, a Treasury Department agent, and Kathryn, a nurse.
It's 1862, and the Virginia Peninsula campaign is about to begin. Unfortunately for the Union, there seems to be a double agent within the Treasury Department who is not only leaking secrets but who also seems to be betraying agents behind the lines in the South. Bronwen and a group of agents have been recalled from various assignments in order to get new counter-espionage training so as to prevent further sabotage attempts from taking place.
An added complication for Bronwen is that she has been marked for elimination by a group of rabid secessionists who hold high-levels of office within the federal government. She had discovered evidence of this group's exsistence while on assignment in Richmond. Attempts on her life seem to dog Bronwen everywhere even in the midst of her new assignment, and Bronwen must learn to trust no one, not even her fellow agents. Unfortunately, Kathryn is pulled into the intrigue by virture of her relationship with her sister.
This novel is rich in historical detail -- a fact that I truly appreciate. However I didn't feel the tension or the sense of urgency that one would expect from espionage novel in spite of the fact that we are told over and over again that Bronwen is afraid for her life. Part of my problem (I suspect) was that Bronwen inspired a great deal of irritation. She seemed a totally unlikely secret agent because of her recklessness, foolhardy behaviour and her reluctance to follow orders. She seemed entirely too full of herself and her infallibility, and since she is relatively new to the job, I wondered at her sense of superiority.
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