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No Certain Rest: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Jim Lehrer
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $12.95
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Jim Lehrer's Tension City.

On a ridge overlooking Burnside Bridge—the focus of the Battle of Antietam—souvenir hunters find the unmarked grave of an unknown Union officer.

Don Spaniel, an archeologist in the National Park Service, is called in to examine the remains. He soon discovers that the officer was murdered and that his identification disk could not possibly belong to him, since its rightful owner is buried elsewhere. So who was this officer? Where did he come from? And why was he killed?

Spaniel’ s obsessive investigation leads not only to his reliving the horrible carnage that occurred at Burnside Bridge over a century before, but to the true identity of the Union officer and the reason why another body resides in his grave in a small New England town.

In a swift narrative deftly combining the past with the present, Jim Lehrer has created an engrossing story that will appeal to a wide variety of readers.

Editorial Reviews Review

Those who share television newsman James Lehrer's passion for the Civil War will be thrilled to encounter this graceful, deftly written novel about a U.S. Parks Department archaeologist investigating the mystery of a murdered Union officer whose remains are discovered in an unmarked grave near Antietam, the scene of one of the bloodiest battles in history. Don Spaniel's curiosity about the circumstances of the soldier's death is ratcheted up several degrees when it turns out that the ID disk found in the grave belongs to another solider from a different regiment, whose body is buried elsewhere. And when a woman from the historical society of a small town in the Midwest gives Spaniel a document that refers to the murder, along with a warning that some stories are better left untold, he swings into high gear to solve a century-old mystery. The pace of this novel is so slow it may put some readers to sleep, and the protagonist is more of a talking history book than a flesh-and-blood character, but real Civil War buffs probably won't mind at all. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

In his 13th novel, PBS NewsHour anchor Lehrer delivers a clever forensic mystery. This effort does not quite pack the emotional and dramatic wallop of his last book, The Special Prisoner, but it does raise powerful questions about the ethics of whitewashing historical truths. Dr. Don Spaniel is an archeologist with the National Park Service. He is puzzled by an unusual grave discovered at the Civil War battlefield in Antietam,, Md., site of the single bloodiest day of fighting in America's military history. The skeletal remains of a Union officer reveal that the victim had been executed. While trying to identify the dead officer, Spaniel learns that the name on his I.D. tag is that of a man buried as a local hero back in his Connecticut hometown after the war. Who, then, is this unfortunate soul, and why was he wearing another man's identity tag? And why was he murdered? As Spaniel uses sophisticated, high-tech forensic equipment and procedures in his investigation, a 100-year-old written confession surfaces in an Iowa historical archive, and Spaniel suddenly realizes the magnitude of the mystery. What he doesn't grasp, however, is that the descendants of the Civil War veterans are just as passionate about honor today as their great-great-grandfathers were in 1862. Spaniel's professional fervor, and his ultimate decision about whether to disclose the truth, could have unintended, tragic results. Lehrer's style is fluid and fast moving; he skillfully develops suspense surrounding a compelling ethical dilemma.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 354 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0812968220
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (August 20, 2002)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC1JL2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #734,294 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Blend of History and Mystery September 5, 2002
I am a great fan of Jim Lehrer's work. His book, White Widow, is an American classic. No Certain Rest is very different, but as rewarding. A quietly searing search for the truth about one of the worst battles of the Civil War, the book deals in another kind of obsession. Lehrer comes to his subject with a wealth of historical knowledge and he writes with a crispness and an economy that makes this book a deceptively easy read -- a page turner -- when, in fact, its themes and characters are complex. This book is for Civil War buffs and novices alike. I enjoyed it immensely and recommend it as one of Lehrer's best.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for history and mystery buffs! September 4, 2002
No Certain Rest is a modern day novel focusing on a Civil War mystery. The main character, Dr. Spaniel, is a government archeologist who is brought in to work on an unidentified set of remains discovered accidentally by relic hunters near the battle of Antietam. The overall mystery is fascinating as is the details included in a letter written by a civil war survivor who is a character in the book. The book provides authentic details of the war that are a bit gruesome and the dialogue is a bit stilted and dry but overall I enjoyed the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Lehrer ain't no Hemingway. March 2, 2005
I love Jim Lehrer's news program, and I had heard that he was a prolific writer, and I am a passionate student of Civil War history, so you can imagine my delight when I saw this book for sale at the giftshop at the Antietam National Battlefield, having just visited Burnside's Bridge. The cover blurb was fascinating, the story looked fun -- and the book is 10% off at the park!

Alas, I must add my voice to the chorus here. Mr. Lehrer ain't no Hemingway. The story begins well, then rapidly begins introducing one-dimensional characters and implausible plot twists. I finished the book wishing that the story had ended a chapter or two earlier.

A final comment: if Mr. Lehrer wanted to deeply address the subject of futile infantry charges, ordered by incompetent commanders and made inevitable by gaps between technology and tactics, there are far better historical places where he could have done so -- all within easy reach of Mr. Lehrer's home in Washington. Frederickburg and Cold Harbor come to mind, but I'm sure there are many others.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cruel surprises January 28, 2003
Lehrer presents two parallel stories, a contemporary American Civil War description of battle events and a modern archaeologist's attempt to decipher those events. (This is a technique also used to much more spine-tingling effect by Beverly Connors in her archaeological mystery stories.) Unfortunately the archy character is an excitable scatterbrain and mere day-dreamer, whose pursuit of the past leads to a cruel modern tragedy. There are passages of incantory violence found in an "original" soldier's confessional narrative.
Lehrer knows how to plot and has a good premise here, but his prose is jarringly rough, wheezy, and simplistic (e.g., he concludes far too many descriptions with the incredibly lazy phrase "and whatever"). Of the old McNeil-Lehrer PBS News duo, McNeil is the better writer of fiction. This could have made a chilling short story but it went long and whatever.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Civil War forensic mystery October 6, 2002
This is the story of a National Park Service archeologist, Don Spaniel, who is called in to find the identity of a Union soldier whose bones were found by Civil War souvenir hunters on private land very near the site where the bloody Antietam battle was fought. Spaniel is a man focused on history of the Civil war, so much so that this is the main focus of his life. His passion is contagious and the reader also gets wrapped up in trying to find out who this Union soldier was. Working with a Smithsonian anthropologist Reg Womach, this duo search out clues left in the grave as well as the story told by forensic examination of the bones.
Woven through the story are the details of that awful day on September 17, 1862 when over 23,000 soldiers lost their lives in the single bloodiest day in U.S. military history through the mistakes of General Burnside and other Union Army leaders. This mistake, and the escape of the Confederate forces, resulted in the extension of the war by 3 years with hundreds of thousands of lives lost.
The story is told in two ways: while Spaniel and Womack are unraveling the clues, we also get to read the account of that day by a Union soldier who wrote the story ten years after the battle. It was a little confusing at first to understand that Spaniel did not have that written account until his own investigation was almost complete. However both lines of the story do complement each other once you realize what is going on.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story on all counts: the mystery aspect and the Civil war story. The story was well written and went at a brisk pace. I found the plot twist at the end a little bizarre but overall strongly recommend this book to both mystery and history enthusiasts.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Much Here January 4, 2003
At the heart of the book is a murder on the battlefield of Antietam. the remains are found by artifact hunters and the murderis deuced by an archeologist and his Smithsonian pathologist friend. The premise is a good one. Unfortunately, Mr. Lehrer goes no where with it.
This book really contains very little. Very little history, very little mystery, very little archeology, very little forensics - well, you get it.
The story line could have been good if fleshed out more. The author spends way too much time recounting his hero's imaginings of the battle at Antietam Creek. There was also much redundancy in the recountings of the battles.
Lastly, the last chapter containing a modern day murder is completely incongruous and superfluous.
This is a book to skip. I was hoping for some interesting insights into the battle or some in depth accounts on the archeology. The book delivers neither. It is mostly an ode to the Civil War by the main character, a National Park Archeologist, who apparently wishes he was there.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting story
This story presented the battle at Antietam, to me and now I want to go and see where this battle took place and try to understand what happened
Published 9 months ago by Judith A DeWitt
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Lehrer's Best!
I enjoy reading Jim Lehrer's works and I feel this is one of his best. It involves the discovery of a body of a union soldier near the Antietam Battlefield (near the Lower or... Read more
Published 13 months ago by E. Willmore
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book if you are a Civil War buff
Jim Lehrer combines fiction and non-fiction in a most interesting plot around some remains that were found years later in the wrong place after a Civil War battle. Read more
Published on December 18, 2012 by LESLIE CARNEY
4.0 out of 5 stars BATTLE OF ANTIETAM
I found the story to be interesting and intriguing, and well-researched. You know Lehrer has walked the battlefield and crossed the Burnside Bridge over the Antietam Creek. Read more
Published on August 7, 2010 by Joseph H. Race
2.0 out of 5 stars No Certain Rest
Never having read Mr. Lehrer but being an admirer of his work on Public Television I had looked forward to this read. Alas, it proved to be a disappointment. Read more
Published on May 15, 2010 by kofigan
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't quit your day job!
Now I know why Jim Lehrer hasn't quit his day job! Alas, I just wasn't impressed with this book, although I really wanted to be. Read more
Published on January 22, 2008 by Mara Zonderman
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Just a Civil War Novel, but a Darn Good Read
This is a very interesting novel that captures both the ferocity of the Battle of Antietam and intensity of feelings that people have about the Civil War. Read more
Published on March 18, 2006 by Scott Hercher
4.0 out of 5 stars love it
I read it while living in Virginia near many of the Civil War battle fields, I found this story extremely interesting. It put a very different twist on the battle.
Published on March 9, 2006 by K. Jarvis
Jim Leher's novel was a great disappointment to me. An individual so accomplished, articulate and engaging left all that behind when he sat down to write this novel. Read more
Published on January 4, 2006 by george danskin
4.0 out of 5 stars Antietam revisited
This is a short novel dealing with a puzzle from America's past. A pair of relic hunters are searching the Antietam battlefield, and find a skeleton with a bullet hole through its... Read more
Published on September 29, 2003 by David W. Nicholas
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