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Unholy Fire: A Novel of the Civil War Hardcover – April 4, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (April 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312306733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312306731
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,303,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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 na‹ve 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.

From Booklist

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 Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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See all 24 customer reviews
I thought it would be boring but I fell in love!
Aaron Stewart
Mr. Mrazek has once again produced an excellent example of unique historical fiction.
J. Galt
Thank you Congressman ... we still miss you in Huntington, NY!
Thomas N. Gellert

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Thomas N. Gellert on January 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Former Congressman Bob Mrazek has done a superb job with "Unholy Fire" following his wonderful first Civil War novel, "Stonewall's Gold." Here is a terrific page turner filled with the horrific stories of the underbelly of corruption and intrigue during Lincoln's presidency. For once the reader is not bombarded with the righteousness of the Union struggle but instead is given an underground tour of the many unfit "military" minds of the Union army combined with the crisp storytelling style and historical accuracy we have come to appreciate from Mrazek. There is much here to savor for both Civil War buffs and anyone looking for a satisfying read. For those Civil War aficiandos out there ... there are overtones here and there of Abel Jones in the wonderful Owen Parry books to be found in Mrazek's best detective narrative. What surprised me the most here is how Mr. Mrazek was able to change his approach from his first novel. The adventurer in him is still very apparent but in many ways this book is much more of a "grown-up" read. There is something for everyone here! One can only hope that there will be many more books to come from Mr. Mrazek! Thank you Congressman ... we still miss you in Huntington, NY!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book because a friend who is a real civil war buff told me that the author's previous book, Stonewall's Gold was the best civil war thriller he had ever read. This one was also billed as a thriller, but it begins with one of the most vividly recreated battle scenes I've ever read. I saw combat in Korea and can tell you that the author takes you through what combat is really like. The recovery scenes in the hospital also ring very true. The thriller doesn't really get started until you're sixty pages in, and then the book clicks in like a civil war Grisham story. I just loved the character of Val Burdette, the sloppy but brilliant lawyer doing battle against the same parasites that have always fed off our military establishment right to this day. This book is a fantastic read, and I don't know why it isn't a best seller. There is even a fine, understated love story that plays out very painfully in the background. I recommend it wholeheartedly, and look forward to Marzek's next book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A master storyteller and a masterful work of suspense, mystery, love, and heroism. What an enormous pleasure it was to read this book. With the deft strokes of a Wouk or Vidal at their best, Mrazek captures the mood and spirit of Washington during the Civil War and puts the reader squarely in the middle of a wonderful tale. The characters come alive on the page, both those who actually lived, and those I only wish had lived, including the most beautifully etched Lincoln I've seen realized in fiction. A very special novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This novel is really special. The time we live in is so cynical that ... passes for good fiction. I picked up The Jester by James Patterson, and can only wonder at how such garbage gets on the best seller list when a novel of the same period like Bernard Cornwell's VAGABOND ends up in the equivalent dust heap. Mrazek writes like one of the masters-short,vivid, wonderful word pictures that put you in that time and place without cutting corners. It is a true reading pleasure to see how he progressed from his last book, Stonewall's Gold, which was superb, too. As someone who participates in Civil War re-enactments, I can tell you that Mrazek brings me closer in my imagination to what happened on those hallowed fields than anyone else currently writing about that war.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Galt on April 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Mrazek has once again produced an excellent example of unique historical fiction. I have looked forward to my next opportunity to experience his work since I read his previous book, "Stonewall's Gold." I was not to be disappointed. Furthermore, in many ways, I found this storyline to be even more intriguing.
In support of those previous statements, I would note that Robert Mrazek holds a gift for expressing uncommon levels of detail through his storytelling skills. The resultant product of his efforts is embodied in this outstanding work, which holds both great richness and depth. Indeed, it provided me with the page-turning experience that I enjoy so well.
This tale is set at the beginning of the Civil War (a.k.a. War Between the States or War of Northern Aggression for some of us below the Mason Dixon Line). The story is woven around a young Federal officer who is first exposed to the horrors of war during one of the initial engagements of the conflict, at a place known as Ball's Bluff. True to Mr. Mrazek's talent for unearthing previously unexcavated elements of Civil War fiction, a departure from the expected norm of the genre followed. My hopes were rewarded, as I was subsequently treated to an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at personal struggles, Washington politics of that era (or perhaps any era), and the character of prominent and not-so-prominent military and civilian personalities that molded those early days of war. In deference to future readers' pleasure, I will not divulge elements of the plot that pull these seemingly disparate pieces together, but will instead suffice to say that it was most unique by my experiences. I should also mention that the wrap-up to the ending was quite unexpected.
In summary, I would gauge Mr. Mrazek's book as a "must read" for lovers of historical fiction.
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