Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Lincoln Conspiracy: A Novel by Timothy L. O'Brien

The Lincoln Conspiracy: A Novel. Timothy L. O'Brien. Random House Publishing Group. 2012; 368 pp. hardback; ISBN #: 9780345496775.

Temple McFadden is a Washington Police Detective with a lame leg but a feisty spirit.  His story begins with a trip to the train station to pick up a package, a trip that will help him earn some well-needed money.  What he witnesses instead is a suspicious murder and his reaction is to grab a package secreted on the victim’s body.  Here begins super trouble for Temple, his wife Fiona, and numerous other characters who will be chased, brutally attacked and escape death numerous times.

Why?  It turns out the package Temple grabbed is Mary Todd Lincoln’s diary and it contains secrets and hints of a conspiracy which would explain why Booth shot Lincoln and more! Was assassination the main goal?  What exactly was the reason for Lincoln’s death if not the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves?  Who were the most powerful men in Lincoln’s Cabinet and in Washington and what were their designs as well as actions mean to succeed no matter what the consequence?

In addition to the slowly enfolding plot which includes a secret code and more shoot-out close calls – perhaps a bit too much, O’Brien introduces the readers to the ambience of the time through such scenes as medical conditions for those wounded warriors of the Civil War.  We discover the primitive but successful treatments that saved and also ended lives.  We also meet men loyal to Lincoln who worked for him or his Cabinet members but who had sideline plans for becoming wealthy after the Civil War ended.  And there are the African-Americans who were loyal to the Union and now assist Temple in his drive to discover the truth, even more so after they are brutally treated in the most demeaning fashion possible.  Their protection and belief in Temple is ennobling, to say the least, and inspiringly credible.

Mary Todd Lincoln is portrayed in a most unexpected way which one may learn on doing research about her but which doesn’t prepare the reader for the self-absorbed, whining, suspicious and fearful woman who has more comfort from an unexpected source, one that stirs the reader to compassion.

Whether or not you buy the final answers, The Lincoln Conspiracy is an interesting, action-packed story, giving the reader a fine sense of the culture, divisions, and political realities of Abraham Lincoln’s world!  A worthy political thriller or conspiracy theory centered on an assassination without closure to this day!

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