From Publishers Weekly
Among Civil War novels, this second effort by former U.S. Congressman Mrazek (after his prize-winning Stonewall's Gold) is a rare find: a book that successfully combines mystery, historical drama and impressive wartime verisimilitude. Lt. John McKittredge commands a company of Massachusetts infantry in the Union Army. A Harvard student from Maine, just 20 years old, he is eager and nave about the war. Wounded at the battle at Ball's Bluff in October 1861, he spends nine months in a grimy, stinking military hospital where he becomes addicted to laudanum (opium). He survives his wounds and is assigned as an investigator with the Union Army's provost marshal in Washington, D.C. McKittredge buys laudanum on the black market while investigating cases of graft, bribery and theft involving fraudulent government contracts for shoddy military supplies and equipment. He is saved from an opium death by Col. Valentine Burdette, a disheveled and brilliant military policeman who sees value in the young officer. Together they pursue leads in a case of faulty munitions and gun carriages, an investigation that leads to the curious murder of a young woman and to crooked politicians and generals linked in a bizarre conspiracy to change the government and end the war. What McKittredge and Burdette do not realize until too late is that no one really wants them to solve the case at all, and that there are stronger powers who will kill to ensure they fail. Mrazek's portrayal of Civil War battle is stark, graphic, bloody and exciting, and is only exceeded by his memorable description of Washington, D.C., as a Gomorrah on the Potomac.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Mrazek has crafted a suspenseful Civil War-era adventure. After being critically wounded in a Union battle fiasco, Lieutenant McKitredge is sent to a makeshift hospital on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., to die. Believing he has no chance of survival, well-meaning doctors continually dose him with laudanum. Defying the odds, Kit survives, one of the many Civil War heroes to be rewarded with a serious opium addiction. Dispatched to the office of the provost marshal, he is assigned to investigate the cases of thieves, murderers, and deserters. Caught up in a murder case that seems to implicate General Joseph Hooker, he must unravel a perplexing mystery and foil a plot to assassinate the president while trying to cope with his increasingly debilitating addiction. Full of dark twists and turns, this brooding drama underscores the brutal nature of both the physical and the psychological casualties associated with war. Margaret FlanaganCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved