Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy L. O'Brien


A nation shattered by its president’s murder. Two diaries that reveal the true scope of an American conspiracy. A detective determined to bring the truth to light, no matter what it costs him


From award-winning journalist Timothy L. O’Brien comes a gripping historical thriller that poses a provocative question: What if the plot to assassinate President Lincoln was wider and more sinister than we ever imagined?

In late spring of 1865, as America mourns the death of its leader, Washington, D.C., police detective Temple McFadden makes a startling discovery. Strapped to the body of a dead man at the B&O Railroad station are two diaries, two documents that together reveal the true depth of the Lincoln conspiracy. Securing the diaries will put Temple’s life in jeopardy—and will endanger the fragile peace of a nation still torn by war.

Temple’s quest to bring the conspirators to justice takes him on a perilous journey through the gaslit streets of the Civil War–era capital, into bawdy houses and back alleys where ruthless enemies await him in every shadowed corner. Aided by an underground network of friends—and by his wife, Fiona, a nurse who possesses a formidable arsenal of medicinal potions—Temple must stay one step ahead of Lafayette Baker, head of the Union Army’s spy service. Along the way, he’ll run from or rely on Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s fearsome secretary of war; the legendary Scottish spymaster Allan Pinkerton; abolitionist Sojourner Truth; the photographer Alexander Gardner; and many others.

Bristling with twists and building to a climax that will leave readers gasping, The Lincoln Conspiracy offers a riveting new account of what truly motivated the assassination of one of America’s most beloved presidents—and who participated in the plot to derail the train of liberty that Lincoln set in motion.

Ballantine Books | September 2012

My Review

3.5 Stars

When Washington D.C. detective Temple McFadden arrives at the B&O railroad station to meet an associate, he has no idea that he is about to become embroiled in a conspiracy surrounding the death of President Lincoln.  After witnessing the murder of his associate, Detective McFadden makes a quick search of his body and uncovers a set of diaries related to Abraham Lincoln.  These diaries, which are sought by two rival factions who will do anything to retrieve them, contain information that indicate that there was more to President Lincoln's assassination than meets the eye.  Although holding onto the diaries puts Temple's life, as well as the lives of his wife and friends, in jeopardy, he boldly commits himself to finding out the truth behind the President's death.  

The greatest strength of The Lincoln Conspiracy is its diverse cast of characters, although it is, at times, a bit of a challenge keeping everyone straight.  The novel's principal characters, Temple McFadden and his wife Fiona, are well-drawn and easy to like.  Many of the book's supporting characters, whether they be fictional or straight from the pages of history, prove to be memorable.  I particularly enjoyed the scenes featuring Mary Todd Lincoln.  Although the unraveling of the conspiracy theory underlying this novel's plot isn't as thrilling as it could have been, Timothy L. O'Brien has done a masterful job of bringing post-Civil War era Washington D.C. and its residents to life.  As a result, it has sparked an interest in me to read more about this particular era, which is one that prior to reading this novel held little appeal to me. 

While I don't know if Timothy L. O'Brien intends this book to be the first in a series or if he has written it as a stand alone, I would be interested in reading another novel that features Temple and Fiona McFadden. 

The Lincoln Conspiracy should appeal to fans of historical thrillers, as well as to readers of historical fiction interested in novels about President Lincoln and/or the post-Civil War era. 

Note: An e-copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review as part of the novel's Virtual Book Tour. 

About the Author

Timothy L. O’Brien is the Executive Editor of The Huffington Post, where he edited the 2012 Pulitzer Prize–winning series about wounded war veterans, “Beyond the Battlefield.” Previously, he was an editor and reporter at The New York Times. There, he helped to lead a team of Times reporters that was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in Public Service in 2009 for coverage of the financial crisis. O’Brien, a graduate of Georgetown University, holds three master's degrees -- in US History, Business and Journalism -- all from Columbia University. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with his wife and two children.