I was invited to review this novel as part of the Mercy Row virtual book tour. This is my first ever participation in a tour, which is exciting, although I was a little disappointed not to get given a rider with this. I suppose a free book will have to make up for the lack of Jack Daniels.
Mercy Row is a novel set in 1920’s and 1930’s Philadelphia. It’s the story of the rise of a North Philadelphia crime family who was also responsible for building the homes and factories that make up this blue collar area of the city. Despite the violent trials and tribulations caused by rival gangs from South Philadelphia and Chicago Jacob Byrne and Franklin Garrett, with the help of the Irish immigrants that settled the Kensington area, build a formidable Irish mob.
This legal and criminal enterprise kept North Philadelphia free from the Mafia for two generations. Jacob’s and Franklin’s organization was built on the blood of those who opposed them, the sweat of the laborers who built North Philly and the tears of the wives and mothers whose loved ones were lost in the struggle.
I was pleased to be asked to review this book as I find the whole era of prohibition and the 1920s to be interesting, although I was a bit disappointed with the complete lack of splurge guns and custard pies.
This is a debut novel by Harry Hall who is a resident of Philadelphia. Overall I would say that I found this book to be quite enjoyable. The descriptions of the area were good, and gave a lot of details of the surrounding city.
The focus of the book is mainly on Jacob and Franklin as they grow their businesses both legal and illegal. There was an element of this story that reminded me a little of Martina Cole, in the sense that she writes about gangsters and her books often transverse a number of years. About half way through the book the story skips forward about ten years which moves the story on, and introduces us to the Mercy named in the title.
The book goes to great lengths to depict the violence and threats that were daily life to the men in the gangs. However I found some of the characterisation a bit lacking. Although there were lots of descriptions of streets, and buildings personally I would have liked more about the family. It just all seemed a little rushed without proper development of the characters in places, but that’s a personal preference more than anything..
I did enjoy it, and as a debut novel if you are interested in that period (and don’t mind a bit of bad language) then it’s definitely worth a read.