The Epic of the Byrne Family Continues in a Terrific Sequel by a Compelling Writer
Harry Hallman has outdone himself in this sequel to his previous book, "Mercy Row: A Philadelphia Story." The Byrne family epic continues, taking us through the tumultuous World War II years. Hallman has meticulously researched the era and the city of Philadelphia, and he provides a view of the time and place no one, as far as I know, has ever taken. Although the story is filled with gang action and there's a new fight or adventure on almost every other page, Hallman makes the era so vivid and so intense you feel as if you've lived though it. The description of the city transit strike, a comment on waling as an ancient industry in Cape May, New Jersey, the feel for the food and the streets and the people, the complex and sometimes conflicting motivations of family and business, the unrelenting pressure from rivals within and without the city, brings the reader so deeply into the story it's hard to put the book down. I burned right through it in two long readings. Although it's a page turner, it's also a book to be savored and enjoyed as a vision of a time not so far distant but now almost lost and forgotten. Mario Puzo move over, you've met your master.
Four Stars- Don't Mess with Gerry Amato and the Byrnes!
There are several distinct sections in Mercy Row Retribution by Harry Hallman. The first is when Gerry is a pilot in Vietnam. Being part of a crime family, he begins flying marijuana growing in country back home for further distribution.
There is a specially riveting scene when they are flying, shortly before Gerry's discharge. Part of the trip involves getting some orphans out of a war-torn area, the other part is picking up some drugs. Once most of the trip is done, they get shot down. Two of the soldiers survive (Gerry being one) and there is a rather dramatic rescue.
But home in Philly is not much safer, due to the nature of his family's business. Rival gangs in and out of the city, in and out of the country were trying to wedge into the Byrne family business. There was a lot of living and dying by the sword going on.
There is a natural tendency to want to empathize with the main character, and I felt that with Gerry Amato. But then his family's business made money off the weakness and suffering of others with the drug trade and whatever other illegal activities in which they were engaged. On the other hand, his aunt (whose name was Mercy) ran the Mercy Row charitable organization that helped the local poor with food and shelter, etc. A lot of the funds from the organization came from the sale of stolen goods.
I had more than the usual amount of internal debate about 'good' and 'bad' with Mercy Row Retribution. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Ignorance and innocence is not the same thing. If we want to be 'good' we have to know what is 'bad'. (That works the other way around, too.)
There is one point where I felt particularly akin to the Byrne family. In an act of revenge, the rival French gang kidnaps and assaults one of the young female Byrnes. I cannot truthfully say I would not at least be tempted to sort the matter out a la Byrne. if someone tried to hurt one of my children.
The part that was most difficult for me was the acts of violence committed in and around Notre Dame in Paris. It does serve to heighten the contrast between good an evil. This scene evoked a similar response in me as when I hear of church, temple or mosque shootings or bombings.
Mr. Hallman's writing is distraction-free, meaning that I could find no faults that might have detracted from my enjoyment of the story. Mercy Row Retribution is one very thought-provoking and well-written read.
The 'Mercy Row' trilogy is a roller-coaster ride of suspense, action, personal relationships and family loyalties. Book three takes place in the Philly I knew, same time and place. A powerful and dynamic coda for the Byrne clan of the first two books in the series.. Harry Hallman captures the attitude and atmosphere perfectly in all three volumes. I could almost smell the cheesesteaks and soft pretzels wafting through the gunpowder. Good on you, Mr. Hallman.
5.0 out of 5 stars
Harry Hallman does a great job in describing the plight of the oppressed Irish ...
This prequel to the Mercy Row series takes the reader to exotic places with action packed adventure. Harry Hallman does a great job in describing the plight of the oppressed Irish under England during the potato blight , Cuba under Spain and the Vietnamese under the French and the Irish Catholics in America.. A lesson in History, important history, seldom mentioned. The Novel stands alone as a wonderful, educational and entertaining book and augments, nicely the first three MERCY ROW novels from this talented writer.