July 4, 1861, finds the U.S. teetering on the brink of the First Battle of Bull Run, an engagement many think will end the Civil War quickly.
Washington is bursting with Northern troops waiting to fight. But the longer nothing happens, the more trouble they cause in a sleepy town woefully unprepared to feed and house them. Aspiring reporter Sophie Gates is on her way to attend a session of Congress when she runs into Constance Lemagne, a Southern belle she’d met while helping presidential aide Adam Quinn solve several murders. Adam’s a frontiersman and old friend of President Abraham Lincoln’s, who’s given him the power to investigate all sorts of problems (Murder in the Oval Library, 2018, etc.). When Sophie and Constance find a man hanging from a crane in the Rotunda, they know just whom to call. Adam, an expert tracker, can tell by the footprints at the scene that the man was murdered and calls upon his friend George Hilton, a black man constantly in danger despite his status as a physician, to help prove it. The dead man, Pinebar Tufts, worked at the Patent Office. His wife, who claims that he had no enemies, admits that he recently had more money and hinted at plans for a better future. When Constance’s father is gravely injured in a carriage accident and the doctor caring for him wants to amputate his leg, a desperate Constance goes to Hilton for help, arriving just in time to save him from thugs who have already beaten him badly. Sophie doesn’t trust Constance, who fiercely believes in the Southern way of life, but still befriends her, along with Felicity Monroe, a stunning young society woman whose upcoming nuptials are the talk of the town. The next to die is the night watchman at the Capitol. Soon after, Sophie discovers a dangerous secret involving Felicity, and Constance undertakes a spy mission for the Rebels. Adam may have his hands full, but plucky Sophie is always there to help as their romantic feelings blossom.
A clever mystery whose historical setting painstakingly dramatizes the many evils of slavery.