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Reviewed by Natasha Jackson for Readers' Favorite
In the opening pages of "Mercy Row" by Harry Hallman, you realize this is a serious story where some really serious stuff is about to go down. Rather than being a typical mob story replete with gunfights and explosions, "Mercy Row" is the story of beginnings on many levels. Jacob builds his dream of running North Philly while Franklin is quite literally building homes. It can be difficult to talk of gangs and mobs without focusing solely on the violence and ruthlessness but Hallman has been able to make the story about more than that. Set in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the story gets the dialogue spot on, or at least what I imagine is spot on for the time. I could hear the Philly accents mixed in with the accents of the individual homelands. Even though there are few neighborhood descriptions, I don’t think there need to be as these types of neighborhoods could be in any city around the country during this time period. This is a story about the people of Philly and how they labored to build better lives for themselves while unwittingly tearing apart the only thing that matters besides the gang and the money: family.
The characters are quite colorful with even more colorful language, but none of it is gratuitous. The language and the people and their way of life are just right for the times and the neighborhood. This isn’t a feel-good story even though family plays an important role to these men. This tale is gritty and brutal and captivating. Hallman does a great job of telling the story of Jacob Byrne and his big dreams of dominating North Philly.