Brothers of Cain Mass Market Paperback – 1 Sep 2002
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I guess I haven't reviewed Brothers of Cain, though. It's hard because I can't help comparing these later books with Blackwater Spirits and Northstar Conspiracy. I'd like to see Monfredo background the nieces and get back to her original characters, who were much, much more believable and even more likable.
Bronwyn is determined to free her brother before they can connect him to her and hang him as a spy. Their superiors, including President Lincoln, recognize her determination and will let her try to free her brother while she completes her real assignment in Richmond where her brother is being kept. She has to somehow get the tobacco the English and French paid for out of confederate hands and into the buyers. This is needed so that the two European nations will think twice before enlisting on the side of the Confederacy. Spies, double agents, and treachery surround Bronwyn as she tries to do her jobs while keeping her skin intact.
Civil War buffs and fans of historical mysteries will not want to miss BROTHERS OF CAIN, a novel that stirs both the blood and the intellect. It's obvious that Miriam Grace Monfredo has done meticulous research in order to give a realistic depiction of this phase of the war. Readers will believe they are part of the action in this historical espionage thriller.
I am always happy to find that Monfredo has continued to focus on women's experiences of history. Feminists will probably particularly enjoy this novel, but it should bequite accessible and enjoyable to a wider audience.
Which comes first, country or family, presents in miniature the moral dilemma faced in large by many of the Civil War's participants, an emotional crucible just one degree short of the stress of actual combat. As reflected in the book's title, the phenomenon of brother against brother, countryman against countryman, was common to a grim degree, in this as in most civil wars.
In Richmond, Bronwen Llyr is faced with two puzzles: how to free her imprisoned brother, who has been sentenced to execution, and how to free millions of dollars worth of tobacco, that has been sentenced to probable immolation. Her brother Seth is to be executed, unjustly, on charges of espionage--a contrivance designed by Confederate intelligence to smoke out Bronwen, who is the *real* spy. Why Llyr would want to spring her brother is obvious. But why free the tobacco? The answer involves a far more intricate puzzle hatched by none other than President Lincoln, the solution to which promises to appease the French, who are highly displeased with Union blockades that keep Richmond's hoard of tobacco out of their hands. The French must contemplate a permanent loss, since there's a Confederate zealot designing to burn the tobacco in a "holy cause" (the man's actual historical words) to prevent the betrayal of the South to foreigners, such as the French, "whose governments refused to recognize us."
As our indefatigable spy tackles these challenges, the two puzzles become interlocked in a way that demands all her quick-wittedness to resolve. In the process, disguise, deceit, double-dealing, and derring-do all come into play, as befits a tale of espionage with many moving pieces. The most intriguing aspect is the dance of deviousness between Llyr and an urbane Englishman, whose guile and treacherousness have been on display in earlier Monfredo novels. You will not be disappointed with the level of machinations that lead to the denouement.
Nor should you be disappointed in the supporting cast, in particular two slyly adroit characters met in the previous novel, *Sisters of Caine*, whose proclivity toward the unexpected is turned to advantage in several situations where the expected would be disastrous.
In spring of '62, after awakening in a muddied ditch on a Virginia battlefield littered with dead blue- and grey-uniformed men, Seth, a 2nd Lieutenant in the Union army is captured by Confederates. His sisters Kathryn, a Civil War nurse, and Bronwen, a Union Treasury agent, by a twist of fate learn of his capture. Come hell or high water, Bronwen is determined to free him before the Confederacy learns that Seth is the brother of a Union spy. With the help of Abraham Lincoln, Bronwen sets her cap for Richmond on a two-fold mission: free up some of the tobacco stored in Richmond warehouses to pacify Britain and France, tobacco that's stuck in Richmond due to the Union blockade; and free her brother from Libby Prison.
Bronwen makes her way through the Confederacy, always one step away from being recognized or discovered by Southern agents. During her journey through the South, she meets many historical and fictional figures who assist her efforts. But will she make it to her brother's rescue prior to the hangman's noose being fitted around his neck?
Monfredo's style of writing captures the essence of a period when the nation was at war with itself. Her descriptive pace flows with ease, each action clearly visible, purposeful. The characters, although fictitious, come to life through each action of bravery, each perception of the war, and through the digestion of the death and destruction the war leaves in its path. Monfredo easily brings to the conscience of the reader the harsh realities of war-we can hear the cannonfire, smell the stench of the dead lying among the battlefields, see the pain and suffering of those dying in the field hospitals, and we can feel the excitement and fear that courses through Bronwen as she continually looks over her shoulder during her mission and wonders whom she can trust...