From Publishers Weekly
Small details often clog a narrative, but here they fill out the tale of one of the most consequential events of American history-the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. While Pitch (The Burning of Washington) relies somewhat too heavily on hearsay reports of conversations that no one can fully credit, he has mined every resource, read every book, and turned up some documents that had escaped others. More important, he's found new evidence that Lincoln was under genuine threat as early as the eve of his first inauguration, not just after his second one. The result is a fast-moving telling of the multiple plots on Lincoln's life, the implementation of the successful one, its complex aftermath and the way it threw the nation into deep mourning and despair. No reader will come away unmoved, even at this distance, by anguish about the event. The author elicits our feelings for even the plotters in captivity and on the scaffold. A real page-turner about real history. Illus.
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Pitch claims discovery of previously unknown facts about the Lincoln assassination. Peripheral to the essence of the crime, Pitch’s new information, while certainly interesting to history readers (such as a plotter’s job application to the War Department), does not alter the history of the case. What would alter the history of the case would be convincing evidence of a Confederate government hand in the assassination––which neither investigators in 1865 nor historians subsequently have ever found. Pitch’s laudable revelations nevertheless leave him with the storyteller’s task of dramatizing John Wilkes Booth’s conspiracy, his and his accomplices’ attempted escapes from the scenes of their crimes, and the punishment meted out to them. Pitch acquits himself well in this endeavor, integrating scene-setting detail with kinetic pacing that leaves his readers dreading what will happen next, well though they know that the president will be murdered, that pandemonium will erupt, that Booth will be killed, and that Mary Surratt will not be reprieved from the gallows. Pitch’s energetic narrative will be highly popular amid the bicentennial upsurge of Lincoln books. --Gilbert Taylor