Kentucky gentleman Joshua Speed teams up with his friend Abraham Lincoln for the second time (These Honored Dead, 2016) to bring justice to a Mississippi riverboat in 1837.
Speed’s been called from his Illinois general store, where Lincoln rents a bed, to investigate the operations of the War Eagle, a steamboat his father owns. The War Eagle has been losing money, and her captain may be skimming off the top. Before Speed can inspect the books, a planter’s son named Jones loses his family’s fortune to a crooked gambler, threatens to kill the gambler, and turns up dead in the river the next morning. The local constable tries to pin the murder on Jones’ romantic rival, painter George Bingham, but Speed and Lincoln are convinced of his innocence. Since Lincoln must travel on with the circuit court, Speed, accompanied by his spirited sister, heads downriver to learn more about the other point of the love triangle, Mississippi belle Tessie Roman. At her father’s plantation, Speed, beginning to acknowledge the evils of slavery, must make a run for it through a cypress swamp, following the path that slaves have taken toward freedom. Armed with the evidence Speed’s gathered, Lincoln makes an argument that brings about justice—or at least the closest they can come under America’s peculiar institution.
Enough historical accuracy to satisfy a Civil War re-enactor and enough courtroom proceedings to reveal the author as the Harvard-trained attorney that he is. A mystery for history buffs and legal eagles.