Thieves of Mercy

Written by James L. Nelson
Review by Mark F. Johnson

This is second in a series following Glory in the Name. In June of 1862, Lt. Samuel Bowater, Confederate States Navy, arrives in Memphis to assume command of the future ironclad ship Tennessee, the building of which will never be completed. Out of boredom and an overpowering urge to join in the struggle, Bowater falls in with the decidedly unmilitary River Defense Fleet, a ragtag group of Mississippi river men and their cotton-clad, lightly armed riverboats. These rowdy, brawling drunkards prey upon Union boats any chance they get. Bowater, at first disgusted and appalled at the lack of discipline among the riverboat crews, nonetheless finds himself drawn to the only means of doing battle available to him.

Meanwhile, back in Portsmouth, Virginia, Wendy Atkins, Lt. Bowater’s fiancée, decides she can no longer wait for him to return to her and heads west to find him. Along with her aunt, Molly, who happens to be a spy for the Confederates, Wendy embarks on a torturous journey to join her Lieutenant. Along the way they share lemonade with Abraham Lincoln, and then the story really gets interesting.

Like the paddle-wheeled riverboats so prevalent in this story, the plot here takes a while to build up a good head of steam. But once it does, it’s unstoppable. A few more maps and diagrams would go a long way toward helping landlubbers follow the story better, but that is a very minor nit-pick in an otherwise excellent novel.