Perish from the Earth: A Lincoln and Speed Mystery #2. Jonathan F. Putnam. Crooked Lane Books. July 11, 2017. 304 pp. ISBN #: 9781683311393.
Meet the characters who just might be responsible for the murder of a man who was angry over losing the possible love of his life:
The Gambler – a man who deals cards with an unheard-of speed and who sweats up a storm when one person figures out his tricks and lets others know.
A Drunken Fool – a man who is mourning something but not sober enough to speak about what it is but drunk enough to lash out at anyone who approaches him.
A young Artist who can sketch anyone’s facial image or a focused setting in moments but who can’t seem to make a living beyond that skill.
A Barkeep doling out drinks and scanning the crowd for trouble and maybe something or someone else.
A Dandy dressed “to the nines” with a Negro servant quietly knitting but also watching everyone quite carefully.
A vivacious Actress dressed in red who graces all with her becoming, fluttering eye glances.
The victim – John W. Jones of Ames Manor, Nashville, TN of the doughy face and passionate nature.
Joshua Speed – the investigator who assists Abe Lincoln in solving the crime of Jones’s murder
Abraham Lincoln- lawyer, fierce advocate of abolition of the slaves, who with Speed investigates the murder.
As legal cases in Nashville are heard on a “circuit” system, Lincoln and Speed have little time to solve the murder mystery or the accused perpetrator will have to wait almost another year before going on trial, a year in a jail that is cold and cruel enough to kill anyone.
It turns out Speed’s father owns the ship where these nefarious characters are traveling and interacting. The card game is obviously rigged but for what purpose. The money Speed is supposed to collect is supposedly unavailable and so one realizes there’s something about this steamboat and its members that’s hiding something nefarious. Speed must clear his own name since it’s guilt by association. One also notices that guilt is quickly assigned based on the conjectures of both witnesses and acquaintances of any of these characters.
Perish from the Earth… is a fine mystery that keeps the interest consistent through the whole tale and makes the reader want to read more about this duo who have sharp sleuthing skills and a passion for ending wrongdoing. Lincoln’s passion for ending slavery is a subplot that only adds to the suspense. Nicely done, Jonathan F. Putnam!