In Time of War

Written by Allen Appel
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

Fourth volume of the Alex Balfour novels (Time After Time, Twice Upon a Time, Till the End of Time), our contemporary hero now finds himself inexplicably in Civil War-ravaged Maryland. He’s soon joined in time but not place by pregnant girlfriend Molly Glenn, who was supposed to have died in the last novel, but, of course, anything can happen when one time travels.

Alex, wounded in battle, witnesses a murder he determines to solve before beginning his recovery in a Washington hospital. There his luck changes as he wakes up with Ambrose Bierce convalescing beside him and Walt Whitman bringing him the newspaper. Molly arrives to become the belle of a Washington whorehouse for her unconventional views on attitudes about the future of America and a woman’s place in it. Alex finds himself in trouble with the Secret Service, imprisoned (with Sidney Lanier as tentmate this time) then involved in a scheme with his nefarious father to keep Abraham Lincoln from being assassinated.

Appel’s novel is a ripping yarn, peppered with the sights, sounds and smells of the era. The somewhat bland hero is outshined by his feisty mate this time out. The devices used to keep the lovers apart become strained. Bringing in the stop-the-assassination plot frays its shopworn edges, although the alternative subsequent history is a compelling look at what might have been. The core mystery is solved with the feel of an afterthought. This page-turner family saga, thanks to the disappearing next generation, promises new adventure and intrigue for the Balfour/Glenns’ past, present, and future.