It takes a talented author to take a subject like the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and bring new life to it. That's exactly what James Swanson does with his bestselling book Manhunt. You probably know the basics from civics class: Ford's Theatre, "Sic Semper Tyrannis", and so on. Did you know that Lincoln's assassination was preceded by a botched kidnapping scheme? Did you know that Booth had several conspirators who were tasked with killing the Vice President and Secretary of State? Details like these often get left out in the dry retelling of events that many of us get in history classes, but with Swanson's vibrant writing and his rich attention to detail, this familiar story gets new life - reading almost like the latest Kathy Reichs or W.E.B. Griffin. What makes Manhunt such a great read are the interviews, eye-witness accounts, journals, diaries, and newspaper clippings that Swanson uses to flesh out the story with a more personal angle than it usually receives. Manhunt gives the reader a sense of the times - what it was like to be alive at the bleak end of the Civil War, as neither Union nor Confederate was sure of what was to become of their country. One of the misconceptions of the Lincoln story is that the War was wrapped up by the assassination. As Swanson points out, the war was far from over, with Confederate forces still holding out against the Republic. This goes towards explaining the brutality that was used in hunting down Booth and his conspirators - it seemed as though the Union itself was about to explode the wake of Lincoln's death. Manhunt is a great read for history buffs or more casual readers, and will appeal to readers of creative true crime authors like Erik Larson, crime and justice fiction writers like John Grisham, and historical fiction writers like Donald McCaig.
Recommended by Tony Pellicone