Martin serves up the fifth book in his adventure series featuring antiquities expert Peter Fallon, in which he searches for Abraham Lincoln’s lost diary.
In previous outings, Fallon has always been embroiled in plots involving historically significant objects: a Paul Revere-crafted tea set (1980’s Back Bay), a lost Shakespeare play (2003’s Harvard Yard), an early draft of the country’s founding document (2007’s The Lost Constitution) and a stash of 18th-century bonds (2010’s City of Dreams). The tradition continues in this latest installment, which opens with the discovery of a letter written by Lincoln on April 14, 1865, shortly before he was shot at Ford’s Theatre. In it, Lincoln alludes to another item, which turns out to be a heretofore unknown diary of the late president, which includes his personal thoughts on freeing the slaves several months before he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Fallon travels to Washington, D.C., to locate the priceless diary, and he, along with travel writer Evangeline Carrington and other allies, finds that some dangerous people are also looking for it. The action pings effectively back and forth between the 1860s and the present day to fill in details of the mystery. In the Civil War-era sections, Union Lt. Halsey Hutchinson finds Lincoln’s misplaced notebook in April 1862, but it is stolen from him before he can return it to the president, and he soon finds himself wrongly accused of murder. Martin is a skillful storyteller, simultaneously packing his book with engaging and well-researched historical detail while also keeping the action moving. Newcomers to the series may be put in mind of the Nicolas Cage-starring National Treasure films, and these books share their history-mystery spirit—though Martin’s series is far more thoughtful and complex.
A satisfying historical mystery.