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on July 31, 2012
I'm always dubious when I see 5 star ratings on Amazon, from a short list of readers. Too many new authors have 'friends' promoting their books. In this case I'm only sorry that it is a short list, and sincerely hope that many readers will download this excellent novel and enjoy it as much as I have. I'm English and my American history education centred on the Founding Fathers of America and stopped with the War of Independence. We had a brief introduction to the Civil War and obviously I knew that President Lincoln was assassinated while attending the theatre. Apart from that modern novels and trips to America have widened my knowledge of your history, but this book certainly taught me a great deal. The story is riveting, the characters all well defined and as others have stated here, yes, you feel as if you are living every moment of this tragedy. I have recommended this book to English friends and family, which for me is quite unusual, as I am sure they will enjoy it as there is a definite lack of historical novels by authors of this calibre. The whole concept of teaching history in the UK has changed over the last years. Now students are given information from newspapers,letters, journals etc., which relate to a paricular period or historical event. This makes the subject far more interesting and also allows the student to form their own opinions. This is what made this novel such an excellent read, well researched historical facts mixed with snippets of a personal nature attached to the characters. Loved it Mr Berry, please keep writing.
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on August 4, 2012
There have been numerous books written about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. This was one of those instances which has been seared into our national consciousness. Some books have been academic, some more to the fictional account. But in A Night of Horrors, John C. Berry has perhaps bridged the two as has no one else.

One thing to point out though, is that this is fiction. The author had to re-create dialogues and choose what actually happened from various theories offered by all those historians and academics. With controversial events such as if Booth really did break his leg jumping to the stage, Berry chose one version (the more widely accepted one, in this case.)

Regardless, even as fiction, the book was fascinating. The author's prodigious research gave him a very broad foundation from which to weave his tale. And although we all know the outcome, I, at least, felt the literary tension continue to rise as the narrative approached that fateful encounter in Ford's theater.

Although I am fairly well versed in the events surrounding the assassination, I picked up many details about which I wasn't previously aware. All these details, coupled with the human face given them, created a much more engrossing narrative than the typical academic study.

Without a doubt, the content presented in this book was simply amazing. So why only four stars? While the content was top-notch, the mechanical aspect of the writing, unfortunately, was not. Paragraphs ran on and on, with 500 words being common. A long paragraph is not, in and of itself, a problem if it follows a particular train of thought or action. But in this book, the flow often jumped from one aspect to another, yet there were no paragraph breaks.

Transitions were somewhat weak, and variations in sentence structure were sometimes lacking. In one particular paragraph, for example, there were 11 sentences. Of these, seven of them started with "He" did this... or "He" did that. One of the others, instead of starting with "He," the author did change that to "Booth," at least.

While the dialogue was reasonable given the period, I wish the author would have "updated" his wording a bit in the narrative sections. I think it would have helped in the flow.

For the research and material presented, this book is certainly a five-star effort. It pains me to give it "only" four stars overall, but as a reader, I feel that both the content and the wordsmithing have to be superb for an overall five-star rating.
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on August 19, 2011
This book was recommended to me by a long time friend who knew that I would be interested in this "novel" approach to a (the?) defining moment of the 19th century.

The book is a page turner, and gave me insight (real or imagined by the novelist) into the thoughts, fears, and emotions of those involved. It is also a great window to the period, less than 150 years ago. The speech patterns, the mannerisms were well caught by Berry.

My only complaint was the occasion overuse of a word or phrase, but that is easily overlooked by the high quality of the narrative.

I want more.
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on September 8, 2012
I really wanted to like this book. And I tried. But the author insists on getting in his own way. I do not cast aspersions on his research--that appears excellent, and I plan to raid his bibliography.

However, the research may be one of the problems. Every time the story would start to pick up steam, we would plow into a museum diorama with a chunk of exposition on a plaque. I've done this myself, where I did research and gathered facts and by all the gods of storytelling I was going to *relate* those facts.

Repetition was also a problem. For example, I believe on no fewer than four occasions it was revealed to us as if it were the first time that the Secretary of State was laid up in bed at home, as he had been victim of a traffic accident, and his jaw was in a wire frame.

There's lots of good information here, and I read all the way through (as research for a role playing game), but if I want excitement and an engaging story, I'll probably go back to the Lincoln section of Assassination Vacation.
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on July 22, 2011
I have been an avid history buff for many years and have come to enjoy novels with a solid historical background. When I was referred to John Berry's novel of the day of Lincoln's assassination, I thought there little likelihood a novelist could do justice to this terrible but extremely important historical event. I was wrong. John Berry is not only a great novelist, but a serious student of history and the Civil War. He has a doctorate in the subject and has been meticulous in his factual presentation, all while weaving a great story within its boundaries. It must have taken him years to put all this together, and I am in awe of his talent. I give this a solid five star rating and wait anxiously for his next work.
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on April 4, 2012
I am simply amazed at the things I learned regarding President Lincoln's Assassination. I think everyone should read this. The War Between the States is very different from the history learned in school. Very Different! This book has prompted me to want to read more, more, more regarding the Civil War. I can't seem to get enough.......... In short, I loved this book and recommend it to everyone.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 22, 2013
Wow! I really liked this book. I have a fascination with all things Lincoln, and this book fed the appetite. Not only does this author have a fabulous command of the English language, but his descriptions were stellar. I was surprised by how exciting this book turned out to be considering the fact that it was based on historical events. I felt the liberties the author took were appropriate to fill in the gaps in historical knowledge and he did a good job of making a suspenseful story that I wanted to finish.

My favorite parts of this book were the sections that about John Wilkes Booth. I was fascinated by the way he was portrayed, just as I would have imagined him being in real life--arrogant, self-concerned and sure of himself. Of course, we have no way of knowing exactly what he was like or exactly what he was thinking, but the portrayal of the man this author came up with was interesting and compelled me to keep reading. My favorite scene was when he was trying to ride the horse out of town after the assassination. This depicted his self-confidence and delusions of grandeur perfectly.

The only part of this book that irked me was when Mary Lincoln was forced to leaver her husband's side by Edwin Stanton. Have you ever just wanted to reach into a book and smack a character? I really did appreciate that the author made this book so real at points that the reader could become angered over the situations it presented.

The scene of Lincoln's death was written so well that I almost felt I was there, in the room, waiting through the final moments. One of the things that has bothered me about other books that featured this event, was that they seemed to rush through it. One of the biggest events in history, in my opinion, is worthy of more than just a passing mention and this author really took the time to make it appear important.

Overall I thought this was a really good book that I will certainly keep on my shelf to read again later. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes history and historical fiction.
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on April 13, 2013
After reading this book, I consider it a stretch to call the book a thriller. I understand it's fiction, but it is absent any suspense or excitement.

The story is familiar to us all and it's certainly interesting, but the author's repetition is irritating -- too many facts repeated too many times, thus lengthening the story unnecessarily and with no point. And the way the Lincolns' personal relationship is portrayed is nauseating and not credible even in a work of fiction. The challenges and stresses of the Lincolns' marriage are well documented. I'm not claiming that they didn't love each other, and the marital relationship did have its strengths. But in this book, it seems every time Mary Lincoln says something to Abe, he responds with a smile, a laugh, a slapped knee, or a twinkle in his eye; and every time he says something to Mary, she responds with a smile, a laugh, or a twinkle in HER eye. This is not just fiction; it's silly and amateurish. These are historical figures about whom we do have some sense of what their lives were like. In this story, the marital account portrayed with such bliss and affection stretches the limits of credulity.

The actual events of the 24-hour day as told in this story, especially after Booth shot the President, were slow moving and not particularly interesting. Hard to imagine, isn't it, given what we all know about the assassination? Again, I'm puzzled to see the word "thriller" ascribed to this book. It's disappointing because it certainly could have been a thriller. A Presidential assassination? My goodness, the story possibilities are almost unlimited. But to me a thriller is a page-turner, something in which the suspense builds as the writer weaves a plot which keeps you wanting more -- not the case in this book.

If this era of history appeals to you, I can recommend 2 books: The first is nonfiction which reads like a Ludlum thriller; it really IS a page-turner: Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer (P.S.) ; the second is also nonfiction, not as heart-stopping but extremely interesting: American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies.
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on August 31, 2012
I enjoyed the book very much and was interested in the fictional account that was gleaned from the historical. I could believe much of it took place as imagined. Not that it was fabricated, I believe the author used historical documents, writings and first person accounts to weave a very believable story, some of which can only be surmised.

My only criticism is the usual for a free Kindle book, lack of editing but appreciated that it was just a few small errors that could have been corrected with a bit more care. Several passages were repeated in ways that were not necessary and made me feel that I had accidently pick up the book and started rereading a prior paragragh and spelling errors, the most glaring the overlooking of "here" for "her" in a couple places yet even those errors did not mar the excellent story.
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on June 23, 2012
I absolutely loved this book. The writing is excellent, and the suspense builds as the 24 hours before President Lincoln's assasination is laid out from the perspective of everyone that was involved in the crime as well as the victims and their families.
The descriptions of people and places made me almost feel like I was there watching the scene unfold. Perhaps my perception of this was enhanced by the fact that I grew up in the area and could very easily visualize the locals, however I think the writing is masterful enough that even someone who has never been to the Washington D.C. area would feel transported in time and place.
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