Synopsis: Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy’s husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she’ll catch a train over the Rockies and—if the telegram can be believed—be greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.
Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. When Mercy finally arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Reluctantly, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.
What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwhackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can’t imagine why they’re so interested. Perhaps the mysterious cargo secreted in the second and last train cars has something to do with it?
Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she’ll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it off the Dreadnought alive.
First line: Down in the laundry room with the bloody-wet floors and the ceiling-high stacks of sheets, wraps, and blankets, Vinita Lynch was elbows-deep in a vat full of dirty pillowcases because she'd promiseh - she'd sworn on her mother's life - that she'd find a certain windup pocket watch belonging to Private Hugh Morton before the device was plunged into a tub of simmering soapy water and surely destroyed for good.
My thoughts: This is the third book in the Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest. I read the first one, Boneshaker, last year and really enjoyed it. I liked this one just as much. I found the alternate history senarios to be facinating. At 400 pages this Civil War steampunk thriller didn't lack much to qualify for the Chunkster Challenge. This book went very fast for me, kept me on the edge of my seat with the action. Mercy Lynch, the main character, was a treat. I enjoyed getting to know her and meeting all the people along on her exciting journey west to see her dad. I only wish we had learned more about Theodora Clay, she is a mystery. A young woman escorting her eldery aunt west, she is knowlegable about guns and shooting but we are never told why. Maybe she'll show up in another Priest book. This was a fun read. If you like Steampunk or would like to dip into the growing Steampunk mini-genre, you should try this book.
Quote: It's funny what they say about men in uniform - how people think women just can't resist 'em. Fact is, I think we're just pleased to see a man groomed, bathed, and wearing clothes that fit him.