A small-town lawyer who will later become legendary unravels a complex murder plot to save the reputation and life of an old friend.
When Old Man Evans finally departs this mortal coil, the residents of Springfield, Illinois, are less surprised that he’s dead than that he lived all the way to 1838. Young Joshua Speed, who narrates in an appropriately stately first person, has his eye on Evans’ estate. His hope that he has a slight advantage because he shares lodgings with the auctioneer, Abraham Lincoln, is quickly squelched by the ethical Lincoln. Instead, the property goes to apothecary Henry Owens, whose “ravenous” affect unsettles Speed. Weeks later, Owens tells Lincoln that he has a hard time working with local registrar Jacob Early, a controversial figure to many. In a public meeting, political rival Henry Truett confronts Early and accuses him of libel. Not long after, Early’s found dead, shot in the forehead. Swiftly arrested, Truett pressures Lincoln into representing him. In an ironic twist, the lawyer appointed to prosecute the case is Stephen Douglas. Against the backdrop of the trial, Lincoln and Speed (Perish from the Earth, 2017, etc.) work to exonerate Truett by finding the real killer.
Putnam’s third period mystery is gracefully written, nicely balancing sleuthing with courtroom drama, and should especially please history buffs.