“Murder on the March” by Jack Martin is part of the “Alphonso Clay Mystery of the Civil War” series, novels which feature historic figures with all their idiosyncrasies, foibles, and underlying personality quirks. This is enhanced by a unique cast of fictional heroes and villains that fill in the context and enhance the drama. It is not necessary to have read Martin’s previous books or even high school American History books to enjoy this one.
In this installment, set in 1864, readers drop in on Major General William Tecumseh Sherman as he gallops across a dusty field. The events of these times are written in letters of blood, and all hope that this is the last chapter. Bodies of hundreds of soldiers lay like so many leaves covering the ground; masses of torn flesh stain where living men had been moments before. Into the mix of the genuine and the horrifying, come the fictional Major Alphonso Clay and Lieutenant Jeremiah trouble-shooters, as well as Teresa Duval nurse, caregiver, and spy.
The story unfolds mostly from the “Northern” point of view as Sherman and the Union Army advance through Southern territory. Martin takes readers into the life and death of the times amid the bustle of a large army camp. A train slowly shudders to a stop, emitting a final burst of steam that sounds like the dying gasp of a wounded beast. The slight, sickly odor of decay permeates the air, and soldiers perch precariously on crates containing the infamous army crackers.
“Murder on the March” is a fictional depiction of a dramatic and traumatic time in the history of The United States. It is compelling both from a fictional perspective and an historic one as well. Scars of disastrous events so long ago remain to this day. “Murder on the March” may not be a book for every reader. It is not a book to read casually, no matter on which side one’s ancestors fought, and in many cases, ancestors fought on both sides. This book is fiction, but the tone, the atmosphere, the devastation, and the trauma are authentic.