Huffington Post national editor O’Brien (TrumpNation, 2005) ventures into fiction in this historical thriller, featuring an 1865 detective digging into the murder of Abraham Lincoln.
Metropolitan Police Inspector Temple McFadden sees a messenger get his throat slit at the B&O Railroad station in Washington, D.C. Temple takes a package containing a journal and a diary from the man’s corpse. It turns out that these are no ordinary finds: One is the diary of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the recently slain president, while the other was written by Lincoln’s murderer, John Wilkes Booth, and includes mysterious coded messages. McFadden immediately finds himself targeted by dangerous men who are after the package, and he enlists the help of several friends in an investigation that reveals an undiscovered plot behind Lincoln’s assassination. O’Brien’s fiction debut joins other recent Lincoln-related historical novels, such as Stephen L. Carter’s alternate-history tale The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln and William Martin’s The Lincoln Letter, a somewhat similar mystery that revolves around a lost Lincoln diary. O’Brien has delivered a serviceable thriller, even if he often leans a bit too heavily on brutal violence to shake things up. He has clearly put in a fair amount of research here, and he revels in the historical details he scatters liberally throughout the narrative; indeed, he occasionally drifts into history-lecture territory. That said, O'Brien does make clever use of real-life historical figures throughout, including such notables as Mrs. Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, private detective Allan Pinkerton, photographer Alexander Gardner and journalist Noah Brooks, among many others.
A fair historical mystery that will most interest dedicated fans of Lincolniana.