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I saw her first at the burying, behind the wicked crowd. With the mob of them cursing and shaking their fists in the snow, twas her I saw. Still as if frozen she was, and only her eyes betrayed the fire devouring her. Aglow like embers in a winter hearth, those eyes would burn us all, and haunt me when she was gone.
Fanned by the wind, a lock of hair flamed from her shawl, scorching across her forehead. I would tell you that her hair was red as blood, to give you the vividness of her, but such would be untruthful. I know the look of blood, see. Her own would spot the snow before my eyes. Her hair was a darker thing than blood, though not so dark as her story.
I should have felt the queerness there at once, from the way the rest of the Irish kept off her. Careful they were with the lovely, though otherwise a bad pack. The men slurred and jostled. Drunk under noon, some of them were, and ragged. Bleezed with spite, their women put me in mind of white-faced crows, hard and deprived. Even the little ones come hating to the holy doors that day. For the Irish fear an informer more than the devil, and death excites them always. I worried that the coffin would not pass the gauntlet they made outside the poor boards of their church. As the representative of our Federal authority, I should have made order my business. And I meant to. Then the look of Nellie Kildare drew me from my duty, and I leaned -- one fateful moment -- on my cane.
But I must not go too quickly. There was blame in this death, and a bitter portion of it was mine. Had I not lain abed with General McClellan's own typhoid upon me, I might have come north a month the sooner, asMr. Nicolay and Mr. Seward first intended. Our agent might have lived. Better it would have been for the widow and the little one, not to speak of the poor, blundering fellow himself.
They had tormented him before they killed him. I saw the marks of their work when I come fresh from the train that morning, fair running from the station, with ice on the streets of the town, and my leg bad in the cold, and the weakness still upon me from the fever. The coroner's assistant held the coffin open for my arrival, then disappeared. The Irish priest kept the widow away from the box. Kind doing that was. I ran into the church all snow-pestered and unready for the shock of it. How long I stared at the dead man I cannot tell you now. Long enough, though, to singe my eyes. Twas small of me to gobble so much time, for the widow was keening away in a locked room. But such matters bind us, and we forget consideration. My hands curled into fists beside the corpse, and not only to fight the cold there in that church. There is cruelty, I thought. Savagery. I had not seen so grim a sight since India and the inferno of the Mutiny.
I am a poor beast, as all men are, and would not question the Good Lord's grand design. Still, I wonder at that which He allows.
When I finally stepped away, two paddies nailed the box shut. Muttering and careless, they made it clear enough that they wanted no part of the business. But the priest fell hard upon them and soon they were jumping about and jabbering their sorties. Their voices took me back. I knew those accents from my old red regiment, the gurgling of that unextinguished tongue, harsh as lye-water in the mouth. Each fellow smelled of whisky.
The priest brought in the widow then, holding her up on her feet with one big arm. His other black sleeve held her babe. The little thing was bawling as if it knew all.
Beneath a statue of the sort the Irish idolize, the woman found her strength. She plunged forward, young and worn in her tattered dress, black shawl flying about her. Flinging herself upon the raw pine, she nearly upset the bier. Splinters soon bloodied her hands for the beating she gave the boards. Her wailing echoed in the empty church, raising a swell of laughter beyond the doors.
"The hoor's upon 'im now," a woman cried, triumphant. Her voice pierced the walls. "Oh, bring ye out the traitor's hoor. We'll give 'er what she's a-coming."
To calm the widow, the priest forced her babe into her arms. The woman's raw hands bled on the infant's face and wrappings. They prayed then, in the different way they do, all Latin and sorrow. The priest had eyebrows that met in a black knot and his shoulders were those of a navvy. Not young, not old, there was a worn solidness to him. He might have done for an elder soldier, had he not been a soldier of his faith. His name was McCorkle and he was no more born to America than I was.
I prayed my own prayers. Off to the side, and quiet like. I will not be small and think the Good Lord tends only to us chapel folk. For all the pagan coloration, there is a faith in your Irish Catholic that must call down pity from above. They do the best they can with what they know, and I would not damn them out of hand. But then I have found good among the Hindoo and the Musselman.
I prayed first for the dead man, then for his shattered family. Careful I was not to face their painted statues, but looked to the windows and Heaven beyond. Next, I gave my thanks. First for my Mary Myfanwy and our little John, and then for the...Shadows of Glory. Copyright © by Owen Parry. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted March 16, 2001
Posted January 10, 2001
SHADOWS OF GLORY is the second of a new series of books being written by Owen Parry. The first was FADED COAT OF BLUE. Both books are set in Civil War era America. Both books are superbly written. The series follows the intriguing adventures of Welsh immigrant Abel Jones, a serving Union officer side-lined as a result of a combat wound sustained at the battle of Bull Run. Unable to fight becuase of his injuries, Jones becomes a criminal investigator for the Union Army. Abel Jones is a wonderfully engaging character who is thoroughly believable, as are all of Mr. Parry's fictional creations. The historical background for the series is meticulously researched and artfully presented. I found the books difficult to put down. The author adds dimension to his efforts by weaving well known personages of the period into his story line. Mr. Parry never misses a beat. The books are well paced. If you have an interest in Civil War era America, appreciate well crafted fictional characters, or just enjoy a good murder mystery, this series is a 'must read'.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 4, 2001
Owen Parry has done it again. Like the first book ('Faded Coat of Blue')in what I hope will be a long series, 'Shadows of Glory' tells a riviting tale of murder and duplicity set early in the Civil War. The book has everything I love in a novel: beautiful prose, a page-turning story with a few unexpected plot twists, and well-drawn characters one hopes will reappear in future books. The historical detail is flawless. Parry portrays the era in all its complexity, capturing the spiritualism that swept the country, the sufferage movement, the deep prejudice against Irish immigrants, and of course the issue of human bondage and the war itself. This book is a joy to read. I recommend it highly.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 28, 2000
I became an Owen Parry fan after reading his marvelous first Civil War novel, 'Faded Coat of Blue,' upon a friend's recommendation, but I wondered if he could equal that performance the second time out. I found his narrator, Abel Jones, a superb, delightful and believable companion on the fictional journey through wartime Washington, and I was taken by the historical accuracy, in both fact and atmosphere. Well, 'Shadows of Glory' is at least as good as the first novel, and maybe even better. When writing is this good, it's hard to say which book is superior. Abel Jones is back, along with a few of the same characters and several new ones, and, once again, all of the characters are wonderfully and convincingly drawn, with distinct and accurate dialect voices--Irish, Welsh, upstate New York, Mid-Western, German, immigrant Jewish--hands-down, Parry's got the best ear for dialect I've ever encountered, and it never sounds false or phony or too-cute. His cameos of historical figures ring true, as well, from Secretary of State William Seward to Frederick Douglass and others, such as John Brinton, a little-known but important Civil War surgeon (who wrote his own fine memoirs). But, more importantly, this dark, thrilling, moving book takes the reader on an unexpected journey behind the scenes in the Civil War. Dealing with issues that range from seances and the occult, to immigration and prejudice, to the lesser-known early campaigns on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, Parry seems to be creating a wonderfully-broad panorama not just of the Civil War itself, but of the struggling country behind the Civil War. This book was certainly a page-turner, but it's so beautifully written you don't want to go too fast. At his best, Parry is as much a poet as he is a prose writer--and many of his images are unforgetable, for example, his description of a drowned Irish girl lifted through the ice, or his images of the struggle in the snow for Fort Donelson. Although it's cast as a genre book, this is splendid, beautiful writing that transcends category. A great read, which I recommend not only for Civil War or mystery buffs, but for anyone who gets a thrill from discovering a terrific new voice in writing. To date, this would be my candidate for novel of the year. If Parry can sustain this quality of writing, his series may prove incomparable.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
By 1862, the United States is consumed by the internal conflict that is just starting to heat up and the Union needs no side skirmishes to distract its efforts. Chief of State Steward believes that the Irish living in the Finger Lakes region of New York are planning an insurrection that will damage the North by splitting it further and probably insuring the United States will never be unified again. <P>The Feds send two observers into the area, but both are killed in Penn Ken. Steward turns to Welsh immigrant Major Abel Jones to openly enter the area under question to learn what is going on there. After a month¿s stay, the relatively new American citizen has found nothing to hint at rebellion. He reports to Steward that the Irish do not appear rebellious, but he feels some sort of trouble is been brewing. He returns this time to Penn Ken with a companion to uncover the nature of the problem and stop it before someone else is killed. <P> Figures that were nationally prominent in 1862 make cameo appearances in SHADOWS OF GLORY, giving the novel a historical feel that it would lack without them. Owen Parry is an excellent storyteller who provides a wonderful tale with a historiographic perspective. The hero is a sign of his times, which foster courageous actions by him that could lead to his death, but he feels he owes that to his new country. Historical mystery fans and Civil War buffs will definitely want to read Mr. Parry¿s latest book that will provide them with much delight. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.