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Gerald M Danielson
5.0 out of 5 starsCivil War Murder Mystery
Reviewed in the United States on July 21, 2013
The book's premise is very interesting, especially since I grew up in Vermont. Not only is the story very entertaining and compelling, I think it's very relevant to the problems faced by our young soldiers returning from combat duty in Afghanistan.
Reviewed in the United States on November 10, 2012
Mr. Heffernan is a wonderful author who has an unusual talent for plot and character development. WHEN JOHNNY CAME MARCHING HOME is a testimony to quality writing and historical research. While the outcome may not be totally unexpected, the journey to that ending is can't-put-down. If you enjoy this book, read BEULAH HILL an earlier book set in Vermont and involves the "most recent unpleasantness".
4.0 out of 5 starsSolid read with a fascinating setting
Reviewed in the United States on March 16, 2014
A fascinating peek into the life of a civil war soldier (although admittedly some will find it disturbing), both during the fighting and in trying to adjust back to civilian life--as the central character tries to solve the murder of a man who was once his boyhood friend. The book is obviously well-researched (with an author's note concerning bending of a few historical facts). Engaging reading. The dialect is perhaps a bit overdone--while the flavor is nice, it shouldn't be enough to trip or even slow the reader. Some will not be entirely pleased with the resolution, but it is realistic. The characters are complex, which is to say they act like real people, with conflicting emotions and loyalties. We see a group of boys enter the bloody conflict that changes them all, changes which pursue them as they try to put the war behind them. A good read.
4.0 out of 5 starsA look back in time...Remarkable Story Telling
Reviewed in the United States on October 8, 2012
This is a remarkable story that will capture your attention and keep it through to the end. Four kids grow up during the Civil War era--1855--1865. The girl, Rachel, grows into a beautiful young woman with eyes only for Jubal who comes home from the war maimed. Abel, Rachel's brother, never comes home, and Johnny, son of the town's preacher, comes home as a psychopath. The author skillfully unfolds a story beginning in a rural Vermont town and takes the boys through many Civil War battles, Manassas, Antietam, and Gettysburg. The battles are realistic and historically correct, but it is the characters' views that bring out the story of living and dying. And in the background is a love story, freeing of slaves, political unrest, and the brutal affects of raping the land and the people...not only during the war, but in the aftermath. Heffernan's writing ability to slide back and forth in time is remarkable...you are never lost. I am looking forward to reading Heffernan's other works.
4.0 out of 5 starsStrong Historical Murder Mystery
Reviewed in the United States on December 6, 2012
I had never heard of the author, but as a sucker for Civil War-set mysteries (like the
Abel Jones series
, to name the first that pop into my head), I picked this up. Cutting back and forth between three time periods, it tells the story of four Vermont playmates as they grow up to become teenagers in the years leading up to the Civil War, their time as Union soldiers, and immediately after. This kind of time-shifting can be cumbersome or confusing in the wrong hands, but Heffernan weaves back and forth with a minimum of fuss and no loss of narrative pace.
The hero is Jubal, who enlists in the Union Army with his friends, and returns home minus an arm. His father is the town constable and takes him on as his assistant while he tries to come to terms with his injury and the loss of his closest friend, Abel. Jubal is also in love with Abel's little sister, but his guilt at Abel's death and his own injury are holding him back from pursuing her. Meanwhile, their somewhat cruel friend Johnny went off to war and returned to the town as a monster. When he is murdered soon after his return, Jubal tries to untangle which of the many people who disliked Johnny might have done it.
The book does an excellent job at portraying an idyllic small-town childhood, the horrors of war, and the effect the war had on everyone. Scenes are vivid and fully realized, and the murder mystery is well conceived and developed. The battle scenes at places like Antietam and Gettysburg have an immediacy and realism to them, as does the depiction of Union Army life. There are a few minor missteps here and there, for example an unnecessary teary cameo by Lincoln, and the love story that gets a little too schmaltzy, but on the whole, it's a strong historical murder mystery..
After finishing the book, I poked around and learned that Heffernan won three Pulitzers for investigative journalism, wrote a series of police procedurals including an Edgar-winner, and has had books on the NYT bestseller list, so it's no wonder that one feels like they're in the hands of a pro while reading this book. I'd definitely like to see another Jubal book.