Monday, October 25, 2010

Review: Unholy Fire by Robert Mzarek

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books, 2003

A Novel of the American Civil War

Sheer desperation led me to read this book. I needed a 'U' book for the ABC challenge and this was all I could find. I don't like war stories......all those bloody battles and needless deaths of young men make distressing reading which I prefer to avoid. The opening pages of the books did nothing to make me feel better as I was thrown into the midst of.....

The Battle of Ball's Bluff

The soldiers of the Union cross the river and struggle to climb the steep bluff where they will confront and be soundly defeated by the Confederates. In his anger and despair at the sight of 'men were writhing in their death struggles like huge demented worms' young Union officer, John 'Kit' McKitteridge,  is inspired to lead a final charge during which he is seriously wounded. He regains consciousness to find his entrails spilling out of his body and 'covered with hen grass and dirt'.
As you can see Robert Mzarek has a real gift with words .....I'm not feeling good!

Kit is carried away to the chicken shed which is now a makeshift hospital and in the most appalling conditions he is kept topped up with copious amounts of laudanum while he waits to die. Miraculously he survives and weeks later he leaves the hospital physically recovered but with a massive drug problem.
Thankfully , there will be no more battles for Kit and he goes to work for Val Burdette at ...

The Fraud Squad

It is Val who will force Kit to go through the horror of overcoming his laudanum addiction because he is needed to help with dealing with the 'thieves, murderers and deserters.'  It's a sad fact that there will always be those who seek to feather their own nests during wartime but I can't say I've ever given much thought to the finer details of how huge numbers of men constantly on the move are kept housed and fed. Corrupt politicians and greedy businessmen supplying the army with diseased meat, shoddy supplies and defective weapons to make a greater profit ...........absolutely horrifying but interesting to learn about.

Murder and Conspiracy

During the course of his work Kit becomes involved with the investigation into the death of a young woman which leads him through a series of harrowing adventures - on the battlefield and in the capital's 'darkest dens of depravity' - until he and Val confront a vast criminal conspiracy which not only threatens their lives but that of President Lincoln as well.

On a happier note Kit also finds time to fall in love with a young woman called Amelie.

It's very, very good and a wonderful mix of war story, detective work, love and friendship............Robert Mzarek is a fine storyteller who effortlessly weaves fact and fiction together in a way that makes for compelling reading. Through Kit's work and travels the reader becomes, like him, an observer of the many realities of war and the physical and psychological affect it has on everyone.
I'm very glad I read it.........and I must add it has one of the most perfect and moving endings I've ever read.

Historical Tapestry ABC Challenge

U is for Unholy

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