Caroline's Reviews > Murder at Manassas

Murder at Manassas by Michael Kilian
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's review
Jul 13, 2011

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bookshelves: historical-mystery, civil-war, historical-fiction
Read from July 06 to 13, 2011 , read count: 1

Murder at Manassas is of the historical mystery genre of novel. It is the debut of Harrison Raines, who is about as perfect as a Civil War character could be. He resembles Rhett Butler, being a gambler and a rogue, yet has a strong sense of honor and morality. He is devoted to his lady love, even if she doesn’t return his feelings. He is a southerner who refuses to fight against his family and friends; he is also a southerner who hates slavery. Harrison freed his own slave, taught him to read, and now treats him as an equal. He participated in the Underground Railroad. He was disowned by his family, but still loves them. In his spare time he probably supports suffragettes and starts recycling programs.

Now Harrison is called upon by a senator’s daughter to investigate the death of her husband at the battle of Manassas. The poor fellow was shot in the back, so is now accused of being a coward.

Ah, but Harrison is able to prove that it was, in fact, a cold-blooded murder, and sets about finding the truth. His journey takes him to theaters and bawdyhouses, across Rebel lines into Virginia and back to Washington, joining forces with the Pinkerton detectives and a nascent secret service. He meets cameos like Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth and Belle Boyd.

Granted, I am not up on Civil War history, but no major historical mistakes leapt out at me. Indeed, the battle is referred to as Manassas and not Bull Run, which makes sense since Harrison IS a southerner, if a noble one. That’s a nice touch.

The only jarring error was his lady-love’s name: Caitlin, which is even pronounced in the modern American way of “kayt-lin.” Kathleen would have been more likely, but even that is stretching it a bit. Catherine would have been just right.

Originally, I was not overly-excited nor overly-annoyed by Murder at Manassas. I found it a standard issue historical mystery. The ending, however, contained a twist and an intriguing hook for the sequels. I was not expecting any surprises, so I just may try #2.

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