In a dry but meticulous examination of the events leading up to and following Lincoln's assassination, Zeinert (The Amistad Slave Revolt and American Abolition, 1997, etc.) profiles many of the people involved and refutes 20th-century reinterpretations of evidence that supposedly reveal a Machiavellian conspiracy. In her view the episode was characterized on all sides by bad judgment and too-hasty action; the assassination began as an inept kidnapping plot, hundreds were detained in the ensuing massive investigation, and in the end three men and a woman were hanged on the strength of very questionable testimony. The author goes on to describe a later, abortive attempt to hold Lincoln's body for ransom, refers to several hoaxes, and finishes with a critical analysis of various modern conspiracy theories. The trial records are largely paraphrased rather than quoted; nearly all of the illustrations are contemporary photos, accompanied by side boxes containing background information or passages from letters and diaries. This serviceable study of a pivotal event in US history is heavy reading, but makes an edifying cautionary tale on the perils of the rush to justice.