The first major task for a jack-of-all-trades assistant to President Abraham Lincoln is to solve a murder with the utmost discretion.
Adam Quinn has recently returned from the Bleeding Kansas slavery battles, where he lost an arm. His family is old friends with the Lincolns, and his uncle Joshua Speed asked the president to offer Adam a job. At the 1861 inaugural ball, he works with Allan Pinkerton, who provides the president with security, to look for anything suspicious, as the southern states are already withdrawing from the Union and assassination attempts are likely. At the ball, he notices an underdressed man acting suspiciously and meets Constance Lemagne, a beautiful Southern belle. When the pro-Union banker Custer Billings is found stabbed in a small anteroom, Lincoln asks Adam to find his killer. Billings’ coat is missing, and all that is found on his body are a watch, a handkerchief, and a business card belong to Constance’s father, Hurst Lemagne, who has no love for Billings. Adam discovers that the man he was watching at the ball is actually a female reporter calling herself Henry Altman, who vanishes before he can question her. With the help of a black doctor willing to risk his life doing an autopsy on a white man, Adam learns that the murder weapon is not the unusual dagger found at the scene but something larger and hard to identify. Adam finds many people who may have wanted Billings dead for private or political reasons. Washington is a city of Southern sympathizers where pigs roam the muddy streets, the president’s house is threadbare and completely open to the public, and there is no police department to speak of. The tracking skills Adam learned from a Native American friend will put him on the path to success.
Prolific Gleason (Amazon Roulette, 2015, etc.) kicks off a new series with an adequate mystery and more than adequate descriptions of the nation’s capital at a critical moment in history.