Friday, December 7, 2012

Book Review: The Lincoln Letter

Martin, William. The Lincoln Letter. Macmillan Publishing. New York, NY, 2012. 448 pages, ISBN 9780765321985, $25.99.

Set against the backdrop of Washington, D.C. author William Martin has written what can be called a dual novel. There are two rotating stories going on and despite the fact that 150 years separate them the two stories are in a way intertwined.

During one of his frequent night stops at the telegraph office Abraham Lincoln loses a pocket diary that contains his inner thoughts and ideas. Some of these are his working through of emancipation. The diary is discovered by Lt. Halsey Hutchinson. Hutchinson is a former soldier who was shot in the throat but managed to survive and found himself unwittingly a trusted friend to the President. Despite his efforts Hutchinson is unable to return the diary to Lincoln and as might be expected it is stolen. In his attempts to find the diary Hutchinson is exposed to and by some of the seedy elements in the nation's capital. Eventually Hutchinson ends up back in the war and serves at Antietam. We meet memorable characters both good and bad, black and white who both help and hinder Hutchinson in his efforts. Readers are even introduced to John Wilkes Booth.

Flash forward to today and we have relic hunter/document dealer Peter Fallon and his on again off again fiance/girlfriend Evangeline Carrington who stumble upon a letter that leads them to conclude the mythical Lincoln diary is real and could be found. As with the Civil War portion of the story there are many others also looking for the diary with many different goals in mind. We again meet an interesting array of characters both good and bad, black and white who both help and hinder Fallon in his efforts.

Does Hutchinson find the diary before Lincoln's death? Does Fallon discover if the diary is actually real and does he ever find it? In a book that moves along at a pretty quick pace with vivid descriptions of both modern and 19th century Washington D.C. readers will likely find themselves rooting for the good guys as the stories move toward their conclusions.

While I personally preferred the 1860's storyline with it's descriptions of a world long gone, both stories worked well and while the premise maybe a stretch of reality this was a book that students of Lincoln will at least find entertaining. The thought of such a diary would whet the appetite of many scholars. Readers of thriller novels will surely enjoy the dual plot lines and the action that is in both. This is a good read that I can easily recommend!

Thanks to Sullivan & Partners for providing a complimentary review copy.

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