Top critical review
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compelling read, but not without flaws..
on February 16, 2011
There is no doubt that this is a compelling page turner, well written and researched. But upon finishing and taking a step back, it leaves an imperfect, maybe even unsettling, impression with me
First, in a sense, "Manhunt" might not be the best title, because while it does chronicle the 12-days that Booth was on the run, it is largely told through his eyes, not those of his pursuers. So maybe "Flight" or "On The Run" might give anyone who hasn't read it a more accurate idea of the narrative.
Second, the author clearly takes generous liberties in filling in the thoughts and motives of everyone involved, especially Booth, to the point where the reader has to wonder whether the narration has crossed the line from non-fiction to fictional novelization.
Put the two together, and you have the bigger issue -- a jarringly sympathetic portrait of Booth. Which is not to say that Booth didn't have sympathetic qualities or even believe in actions were justified. He surely must have. But I found too often, especially as the book wears on and the narrative becomes even more focused on Booth, that the author brushes aside his obvious flaws - among them his extreme bigotry, violent streak, hot temper and consistent deception of friend and foe alike - to paint him as something of a martyr. As the book nears its close, the author really seems to go all in, depicting Booth's pursuers as incompetent glory seekers and Booth... well, I'm telling the truth here, there's actually one passage in which a character who helps authorities is compared to Judas and another passage with a direct comparison of Booth to Jesus as he lay dying and tended to.
Again, there's much to like about this book and I recommend reading it. But since so many people have given it such sterling (5 star) reviews, I thought I would try to communicate a bit about what bothered me about the narrative. It's very good, but can't see it as 5 stars.