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The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War Hardcover – January 29, 2013
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*Starred Review* Some of President Lincoln’s associates and some historians have questioned if the supposed conspiracy to assassinate him upon his arrival in Baltimore was serious. Stashower has no doubt that the plot was real, and he has written a convincing and well-researched chronicle of it and the successful effort to thwart it. His story has the necessary elements of a successful historical thriller, including a determined assassin; a wily, intrepid detective; a serpentine plot; and, in Lincoln, an important and sympathetic potential victim. Stashower seems determined to lay out the painstaking details of the plot; although it provides credibility, it sometimes acts as a drag on the narrative. Still, the stakes are high, so the story has a built-in urgency and excitement. The detective, the soon-to-be-famous Allan Pinkerton, is a relentless and clever sleuth, and the chief conspirator, a Baltimore barber named Ferrandini, is a formidable adversary. Despite some slow moments, the book generally succeeds as both a historical inquiry and a detective story. --Jay Freeman
“This account of the little-known Baltimore-based plot to assassinate Lincoln… hurtles across a landscape of conspirators, heroes and politicos in hotel suites, ladies' parlors and railway depots…. We can be grateful that Old Abe survived the first attempt on his life. And now we have the chance to relish the story of the clever and determined characters who were dedicated to his safety.” ―New York Times Book Review
“The world's most famous private eye saves Abraham Lincoln's life--and perhaps the Union itself? Sounds like fiction, but in Daniel Stashower's riveting new book, it's all true. It's history that reads like a race-against-the-clock thriller.” ―Harlan Coben
“Reads like a first-class detective novel . . . Pinkerton's tireless energy prevented a tragedy that might have destroyed the republic.” ―James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom
“A fast-paced page turner. Stashower deploys the skills of a gifted veteran mystery writer.” ―Michael Burlingame, author of Abraham Lincoln: A Life
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What a page turner! Daniel Stashower's fast moving book covers a little known moment in America's past and is just what I look for in reading history: entertainment. As well as Lincoln's first brush with a political assassin, The Hour of Peril gives you a close up look at Allan Pinkerton's life and the birth of of his famous detective agency. From "rebel-rouser" in Scotland to a trouble-shooting handy man in rural America Pinkerton was quick to use his wits, as well as his fists, when it was time to help someone with a problem. Lincoln too was a man who wasn't afraid of controversy in his pursuit of an education or a political office. Neither man was one to back down in the face of danger. Put these two together in the same book and you have a recipe for excitement. Much as I hate to admit it, this was the first time I had ever heard of an early attempt on Lincoln's life and even though I knew he would survive to be sworn-in as president, the suspense was still there and once started this book was hard to put down. The main narrative follows president-elect Lincoln as he makes his way from Springfield, Illinois, via train, to Washington DC for his inauguration. Rather than a straight run from point A to point B, the train would meander through several eastern states, cross the Mason- Dixon Line, and stop a various cities along the way to give Lincoln a chance to meet the citizens and official dignitaries at each location. The last stop before DC was Baltimore, Maryland where Lincoln might face his harshest critics yet. With a possible political split between the northern and southern states looming in the Nation's future, the Maryland railway system was of strategic importance to both sides. Emotions were high in "The Monumental City", tempers flared and rumors ran rampant, this was no place for the faint of heart. Meanwhile, in Baltimore, Pinkerton was working undercover for companies like Adams Express and the Illinois Central Railroad. During the course of his investigations Pinkerton caught wind of a possible assassination plot to kill Lincoln. Now the race was on, Pinkerton was determined to find the source of the rumors and see Lincoln safely to Washington DC. Depending on who you talked to in the mid 1800's, Pinkerton was either a skilled detective or a hot headed muck-raker, either way Lincoln trusted him and, for the most part, went along with his plans. In his day, Pinkerton was criticized for some of his methods but he did establish many procedures for crime detection that are still in use today. At times he was a bit hard nosed and would do whatever it took to achieve his goals. If that meant stepping on a few toes, entrapping a suspect or sending his own people into danger, then that was the price you paid for law enforcement in 1861. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in early American history, I found it well written and engrossing with just a touch of "film noir". Should the reader take Stashower's conclusions as the last word on this subject? Probably not, but if you'r interested, The Hour of Peril will lead you on to other books and authors who may have a slightly different take on the plot to kill Lincoln and on Pinkerton's merits for good or ill. From what I could determine Stashower's research was right-on and he seemed to be good a covering both sides of any controversy. I had no technical or formatting problems with this Kindle edition.