“Killing Lincoln” was the well written historical thriller I hoped it would be! Brimming with details about the intricacies of the Civil War, the book provides a unique perspective about our country in the weeks leading up to President Lincoln’s assassination, and more importantly, about American’s feelings about the end of the war. The result is a perfect background to the most shocking assassination in history.
I was struck by how much dissention existed among the Union army, even after the war was over. After the surrender, some felt that Confederate soldiers should merely drop their weapons and go home to their families, but others felt they should be punished. It was apparent that although the war was over, America was still very much a house divided. The historical setting is meticulous, yet interesting, and allows the reader to gain an introspective look into why John Wilkes Booth thought he would be a hero for killing Lincoln.
The book is well-balanced with details about Booth’s motley crew and kidnapping turned assassination plot, without being boring. Although Booth wanted to kill Lincoln, he didn’t have a detailed plan. It was only by strange coincidence that Booth happened to walk into Ford’s Theater to pick up his mail (he used the theater as his mailing address because he had no permanent residence) at the same moment that the theater’s manager announced the president would attend the show that night, something the manager learned only moments before.
Another coincidence I found particularly interesting was that Lincoln’s son, Robert was once pushed off a train platform, and had it not been for the courage and bravery of a stranger pulling him off the track, Robert would have died. The stranger turned out to be John Wilkes Booth’s older brother. It was also interesting that General Grant and his wife Julia – people Booth also wished to murder, were invited to attend the theater with the Lincolns. But Julia’s strong dislike of Mary Todd propelled her to decline the invitation and leave town. There were numerous other people invited in their place, who also could not attend. Who knows who else would have been shot had they attended “Our American Cousin” with Lincoln that night.
I was captivated by the descriptive events of the actual assassination, and could not read fast enough even though I knew how the tale ended. The words transported me back to Ford’s Theater and the small room where Lincoln died- places I visited several years ago. Strangely, on numerous occasions Booth rented out the room where Lincoln died, and had slept there only a few weeks before.
The book was so interesting, that I believe even those who do not typically read histories or nonfiction would enjoy it. I have to say I recommend it to everyone.