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Sisters of Cain

Sisters of Cain

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by Miriam Grace Monfredo

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In Washington City in 1862, President Lincoln rallies the Union troops for the largest single campaign of the Civil War. And two sisters from Seneca Falls take their places among the players of history, sparked by the fires of conviction...

As part of the new special intelligence force of the Treasury, Bronwyn Llyr finds herself undercover and behind the


In Washington City in 1862, President Lincoln rallies the Union troops for the largest single campaign of the Civil War. And two sisters from Seneca Falls take their places among the players of history, sparked by the fires of conviction...

As part of the new special intelligence force of the Treasury, Bronwyn Llyr finds herself undercover and behind the lines. Her sister Kathryn volunteers as a nurse for the Union Army. In the heart of enemy territory and in the thick of battle, the two sisters must solve a baffling mystery, and thwart a Rebel conspiracy that threatens both their lives-and the entire outcome of the war...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author's chronicling of the mid-19th century moves deeper into the Civil War period in this seventh Seneca Falls mystery (following Must the Maiden Die), which provides a marriage of history and mystery with a sharp and sharp-witted feminist viewpoint. Adventuresome Bronwen Llyr continues to flaunt convention as she moves from detective to spy, joining up with Treasury Chief Rhys Bevan's fledgling Special Intelligence Force in Washington, D.C. Her more conservative sister, Kathryn Llyr, also comes to Washington, hoping to win a job as a nurse under Dorothea Dix. Both sisters end up coping with great danger and interacting with historical and fictional characters as they play major and minor roles in the Virginia Peninsula Campaign of 1862. Monfredo's historical accuracy provides a solid foundation for the exploits of both sisters. Bronwen makes forays into Confederate territory and conducts a battle of wits and wills with spies, counterspies and traitors. And Kathryn, though rejected by Dix, finds scope for her talents dealing with the ravages wrought by disease and also gets caught in the eddies of her sister. Monfredo's skillful characterizations of historical figures (Lincoln, General McClellan, Dix, etc.) blend easily with her fictional creations. And her insights into the race to develop ironclad ships (Merrimack and Monitor), to woo British and European allies and to develop essential information-gathering units nicely flesh out this intriguing novel, which should appeal to Civil War buffs and mystery fans equally. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
As a former Pinkerton Detective Agency operative, Bronwen Llyr finds herself in demand when the U.S. Treasury must create new special intelligence forces. Until 1862, Pinkerton agents had been the only Union government spies, but someone has betrayed the North and leaked the identities of many agents to the Confederates. Now with the Virginia Peninsula campaign about to begin, the North needs spies out in the field, and Bronwen ends up behind Confederate lines. While Bronwen searches for the person who betrayed the Union agents, her sister, Kathryn, arrives in Washington, D.C., hoping to become a volunteer nurse for the Union army. Both sisters quickly find their lives in danger as they struggle to help the cause they believe in. Monfredo manages to please two different audiences with her latest mystery—teachers who need well-crafted historical fiction for classroom assignments and teens who love rip-roaring historical novels that are just plain good reads. Intriguing period facts, such as the early role of the Monitor and Merrimack in the Civil War, and cameo appearances by real figures from the past, including Dorothea Dix and Abraham Lincoln, are deftly woven into the story that provides a good picture of how spies were used by both the Confederate and Union governments. With its two strong independent female protagonists, this novel is a natural choice for older young adult readers. Teens who gobbled up the Dear America series when younger and now gravitate to Ann Rinaldi's novels will discover that all of Monfredo's historical mysteries are equally satisfying. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High,defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2000, Berkley, 368p, $21.95. Ages 16 to Adult. Reviewer: John Charles SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
Library Journal
Monfredo's (Must the Maiden Die) latest takes place in the spring of 1862, during the Civil War. The setting is Baltimore, Washington, DC, and northern Virginia. President Lincoln, anxious for a decisive Union victory and adamant that Union intelligence infiltrate the South, sends Treasury agent Bronwen Llyr into enemy territory to assess Confederate strength and to thwart a suspected attack on the Monitor, the Union's ironclad ship. Bronwen and her sister Kathryn, who is in Washington to nurse Union soldiers, find themselves plunged into the dangerous world of spies and counterspies. Monfredo successfully blends history and fiction, feminism, nationalism, medicine, romance, and espionage in a most entertaining and satisfying story. Without a doubt, public libraries will want to purchase this book, as it should appeal to Civil War enthusiasts, mystery buffs, and historical fiction fans alike.--Jean Langlais, St. Charles P.L., IL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Internet Book Watch
In the second year of the Civil War, people from all types of lifestyles throughout the divided country contribute to the war effort. In Seneca Falls, New York, Glynis Tyrone tries her best to contain a local typhoid epidemic. Her two nieces, Kathryn and Bronwyn play a more active role to help their beleaguered nation. Washington DC hosts many southern spies while the government includes numerous southern sympathizers. Kathryn becomes a nurse working in the field with the Northern army while Bronwyn serves as an intelligence agent behind enemy lines working for the Treasury Department. In Virginia, Bronwyn breaks into the home of a renowned physician who is a rabid secessionist. She finds incriminating evidence exposing high-level federal officials working for the confederacy, but these conspirators now know Bronwyn needs to be eliminated before she can do any more damage. Anyone who wants to attain a real feel for the early years of the Civil War needs to read Sisters Of Cain. The audience will taste petty politics, military maneuvering and posturing not always on the battlefield and surreal Hoover-like expectations of pending victory just around the corner. Miriam Grace Monfredo creates an exciting historical mystery that includes sensational characters with mainstream appeal. Waiting for a Ms. Monfredo novel requires discipline in the art of patience.
—Internet Book Watch

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Miriam Grace Monfredo
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Chapter One

Too much attention cannot be given to spies....they are as necessary to a general as the eyes are to the head.
Marshal Saxe, 1756 (Hermann Moritz, comte de Saxe)

February 1862
Richmond, Virginia

It was too quiet.

The abrupt silence, while occurring in a seldom used hallway outside the hotel room, had now lasted far too long to be anything but ominous. Hattie Lawton had been carrying medication across the room and had stopped midway to listen, praying that the footsteps she had heard a minute earlier would continue past the door. The footsteps did not continue, and the silence stretched.

Suddenly, like a clap of thunder, came the bang of a fist striking the door.

"McCubbin, chief of police!" a voice barked.

Hattie drew in her breath and glanced toward the bed where Timothy Webster lay helpless. The pupils of his eyes, long dulled by pain and the small amount of opiates Hattie could smuggle into the hotel, now glittered with alarm when he mouthed at her, "They've found us."

Hattie gathered in her long skirt and rushed to the bed, where she bent over him, whispering, "Tim, we don't know that yet."

Timothy, his once-sturdy frame racked with inflammatory rheumatism, winced as he shook his head, murmuring, "They've come for us. You have to getaway."

Another blow struck the door. "Open up! Now!"

"I won't leave you here," Hattie said, under her breath, grasping the sick man's wrist and lifting his hand to hold it against her cheek.

The Federal government and Chicago detective Allan Pinkerton were dependent on this man forintelligence information from the Confederate capital, but if captured,

Timothy Webster might be abandoned by both.

Two harder thumps rattled the door.

"We won't answer," Hattie said, while Timothy strained to pull himself upright in the bed. "If we don't respond," she told him, her lips pressed to his hair, "they might leave."

He struggled to an awkward, half-seated position, and his voice held despair when he urged, "Getaway, love! Please, leave by the window. Then go to the others."

"I can't, Tim. The two agents Pinkerton sent to contact us have been arrested. And that new man you just hired has disappeared. Unless...oh, God, could he have betrayed us?"

The sick man hesitated before answering, "It's possible, but I checked his background myself. And who could be more loyal than a—"

He was interrupted by a determined battering against the door.

"Those agents might have broken under questioning," Hattie said softly. "And if they did?"

She jumped at a crash of splintering wood. The door burst open, and two uniformed men strode into the room.

Her mind racing over their cover story, Hattie felt a cold thrust of fear when she recognized them. The first one, silver-haired and heavyset, was General John Winder, Richmond's provost marshal and prison commandant. The man behind him was Captain Sam McCubbin, the recently appointed chief of police.

"Well, now," said General Winder, his mouth curving in a smile that did not include his small shrewd eyes. "And what have we here? A love nest?" The smile vanished. "Or more to the truth, a nest of vipers." It was not a question.

"You have no right to break in!" Hattie objected, remaining beside the bed as she faced the Confederate officers. "This is a very sick man, as surely you can see."

"'Fraid he's going to get a whole helluva lot sicker," McCubbin stated, pulling a cigar from his pocket. "What's your pleasure, Webster? You want to tell it to us here, or would you rather do it in a cell? Won't matter none, 'cause one way or t'other you're goin' to swing. We don't much cotton to Yankee spies."

"You're badly mistaken," Hattie said icily. "How could this man be acting as a spy? He's been here in this bed for weeks."

"That won't work," retorted McCubbin, striking a match and waving it in dismissal. "We got word about your two Pinkerton friends. When we picked 'em up, they spilled the beans. All the beans!"

"This is absurd," Hattie protested, desperate to keep his attention from veering to Timothy, who, to protect her, might confirm McCubbin's claim. And when he had said "We got word," did that mean she had been careless and revealed their whereabouts? Or had she and Timothy been betrayed? If the latter were true, no one could help them.

"Funny you don't know those fellas," McCubbin said, lighting the cigar, then tossing the match to the floor, "'cause they sure do know y'all! Now we got ourselves four Pinkerton spies"—he grinned at Hattie, baring tobacco-stained teeth—"and we sure as hell don't have to worry about that fifth one!"

Before she could stop herself, Hattie glanced with dread at Timothy, wondering if he'd caught the insinuation of treachery. His drawn face expressed nothing but resignation. To cover her lapse, Hattie reached down and smoothed his blanket, her fingers lingering on his before she thrust her hand into a skirt pocket.

"Miss Lawton," said General Winder affably, "I'd say you best cooperate. We have enough to keep you in prison for the duration. You follow me? When we picked up your two contacts, one of them was totin' a carpetbag. Guess he was either too dumb or too rattled to get rid of it like a good agent should. And what do you s'pect was in that bag?"

Because Timothy looked as if he were about to reply, Hattie answered quickly, "I have no idea, since I've never met the man."

"No! That won't do," Winder growled. "We know damn well that you Yankees are schemin' to do something down here—maybe even have a mind to try takin' Richmond! And your friends confirmed it."

"That's a lie!" Hattie scoffed.

"It's no lie," Winder replied. "That bag held reports on the whole eastern section of Virginia—fortifications, number of troopshere, the whole shootin' match. Even had the launchin' schedule of our new ironclad ship, which is more'n I had!"

He turned to Timothy Webster. "'Course you knew it, 'cause you're the one snooped 'em out. Now, none of this will reach your Mr. Pinkerton, but you can't be allowed to just saunter off with all that information. You follow me?"

"This whole thing's nonsense!" Hattie insisted, and heard the tremor in her voice giving lie to her protest. She glanced again at Timothy, afraid he would break if he felt she was in danger, and she would have to live with the knowledge that she'd sent him to his death. Her own life would mean nothing then.

"Don't bother denying it," Winder said to her, and his voice held a confidence that terrified Hattie more than his words. "We've got everything we need to hang you. Maybe you didn't know we have our own friends," he went on, the smile back in place. "But you, Webster—and your lady, too—won't be sending anymore reports to Pinkerton or Washington."

Hattie again began to protest, but Timothy stopped her by saying to Winder, "This woman's no threat to you. She's simply been nursing me. Let her go."

"Can't do that," Winder answered, while McCubbin began to randomly search the room. "She's a spy same as you—though not near as dangerous—so's I can't just let her go. You follow me? Besides, you say she's your nurse, and that's fine, 'cause we can't let anything happen to you, Mr. Webster. We need you healthy so's you can make that gallow's walk."

Hattie turned toward the bed to conceal her movements, waiting until she thought McCubbin's attention was occupied with yanking out drawers of a bureau and dumping their contents on the floor. But he must have seen her from the corner of his eye, because he leapt across the room just as she pulled the derringer from her skirt pocket.

He grabbed her wrist, attempting to wrestle the pistol away, and Hattie, struggling in his grasp, could only sink her teeth into his forearm. At the same time, Timothy managed to slide off the bed. Before he could gain his footing, a blow from Winder's fist knocked him to the floor as McCubbin, now yelling in pain, swung his free hand across Hattie's face. Cigar ashes and sparks scattered as the derringer discharged to send the bullet flying into the ceiling. Hattie collapsed to the floor beside Webster, throwing her arm protectively across his shoulders.

"Like I said," McCubbin panted, standing over them and vigorously rubbing his forearm, "you're goin' to hang. Only now maybe it'll be both of y'all swingin' from those gallows!"

A cold winter rain had begun to spatter against the windows of the Monument Hotel and into the large, horse-drawn phaeton awaiting General Winder, when four figures, one of them hunched over and leaning heavily on another, emerged from the lobby onto the cobbled thoroughfare. Street vendors were scrambling to cover their wares as shoppers hurried for shelter, and none seemed to notice the odd little parade crossing to the carriage.

A fifth figure, instrumental in the capture of Timothy Webster, had concealed himself behind a column supporting the hotel porch. He stood observing the scene with narrowed eyes, attempting to overcome his unease by fingering the pouch of silver and gold coins in his frock coat pocket. At that moment the coins weighed heavy, but he assumed he would learn to carry them without a pang of conscience, as this was, after all, only his first payment. He had earned it. Preventing the North from learning the launch schedule of the Confederate's ironclad Merrimack had alone been worth the price.

Some distance below the hotel, the rain joined the James River as it tumbled and frothed in its twisting course to the Chesapeake Bay. The observer remained in place, watching the rain and the river until Winder's carriage rumbled away. Then, forcing a leisurely gait, he ambled down the deserted street toward the Richmond telegraph office. He would wire a report to Washington, and no one there could question that Timothy Webster's illness had caused his uncommon lack of caution. It was close enough to the truth; Webster's undoing had been his uncommon lack of distrust.

The coins in the man's pocket jingled seductively against his thigh, their weight becoming lighter with every step.

Meet the Author

Miriam Grace Monfredo lives in western New York State, the scene of her critically acclaimed Seneca Falls Historical Mystery Series. She is a historian and a former librarian. Monfredo's first novel, Seneca Falls Inheritance, Agatha nominated for Best First Mystery Novel 1992, is set against the backdrop of the first Women's Rights Convention held in 1848. Since then she has written eight more novels that focus on the history of America and the evolution of women and minority rights. Her latest book, Children of Cain, is the third volume of a Civil War trilogy set in Washington D.C. and Virginia, during the Union's 1862 Peninsula Campaign.

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