What a fascinating book this is. Reading like a novel, it reveals the history of a murder case in which Abraham Lincoln defended an accused young man in Springfield, Illinois, in 1859. Due to the great good fortune of a transcript of the trial being found in the 1980’s, we are able to follow the trial almost verbatim from that hot summer so long ago.
Before the development of stenography, verbatim transcripts of trials simply didn’t exist. We are lucky that Robert Hitt, a steno man who was known to Abraham Lincoln, was invited to come to Springfield to cover the murder trial in which Lincoln was one of the defending attorneys. This could have been a dry, textbook-like book, but instead it draws the reader in with its immediacy.
Although most of the book is about the actual trial, the context in which the trial was set is beautifully explained. The Lincoln-Douglas debates (which Hitt had also covered) had recently taken place, elevating Abraham Lincoln to the national stage. It was clear that he was likely to make a try for the Republican candidacy for president, and the eyes of the nation were watching the trial to see what kind of man he was. Neither they, nor we, will be disappointed.
If you are a student of history, interested in Abraham Lincoln in particular, or just like legal thrillers, this is the book for you. It is a most interesting look at a time of Lincoln’s life which is less well-known than his early or later years, at a time when he was making his living as a lawyer in the growing Midwest. Here we see him as those who knew him best saw him, in his own time and place.
I am so glad I read this book, and I heartily recommend it
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.