Lt. James Harper returns in this new edition of the second book in Gabhann’s trilogy of historical novels set during the American Civil War.
Paducah, Kentucky, 1862. When an entire Union company is wiped out while camped 15 minutes outside of town, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s intelligence officers suspect there is a spy at work in the small city occupied by soldiers in blue. Only a week back from a short stint in Confederate prison, Lt. Harper of the 1st Iowa Volunteer Mounted Infantry takes it upon himself to figure out that the spy is Franklin Bosley, Paducah’s wealthy restaurateur and brothel owner. He soon meets Maggie Warren, a war widow and prostitute in Bosley’s employ, to whom he develops a quick and potentially dangerous attachment. Meanwhile, Katie Malloy volunteers in a hospital when not doing sex work, and hopes to one day get away from Bosley, to whom she owes a great deal of money. Katie’s mother visits her daughter in recurring dreams and tells her a soldier will come along and save her from her plight. Nineteen-year-old Corp. Gustav Magnusson, who previously thought Harper to be a reckless careerist, has come to trust his commanding officer following their time as Confederate prisoners. As Harper investigates the spy ring at Grant’s request, he and Magnusson become involved in a web of intrigue of both personal and military importance. Gabhann’s prose is suitably textured for his task, combing the grit and blood of war fiction with the stilted manners of the time period. Harper feels self-conscious about the state of his uniform at a party with officers and prostitutes: “Under the scrutiny of the major and his escort, Harper resisted the instinct to brush at his uniform. Nothing he could do now would remove the blood stains and the powder burns.” The first novel in the Shiloh trilogy, Harper’s Donelson (2020), was already fairly prostitute-heavy for a Civil War novel, and this volume’s plot sometimes feels as though it was contrived purely to up the prostitution content. Fans of espionage novels may enjoy its sudden diversion into the world of spycraft, but those looking for epic battles will be disappointed.
A gritty if not completely realistic installment in a Civil War trilogy
The second edition is presented by Sean Gabhann's new publisher, Natchez Trail Press. It incldes minor edits and short rewrites from the first editiion and a redisgned cover.
The story of Jamie Harper, Katie Malloy, and Gustav Magnusson continues in Harper's Donelson and Harper's Shiloh