In “The Lincoln Conspiracy” (Ballantine, $26), Timothy O'Brien offers a new twist on history and introduces a sleuth readers might hope to see again.
It's unlikely Temple McFadden, a police detective in Washington, D.C., in 1865, will become a repeat hero. But he certainly wraps things up in fine fashion in this thriller about a crucial time in American history.
President Abraham Lincoln's assassination seems to have been solved, but the city and nation are in mourning. The Civil War is over, but peace is fragile. The detective's crippled leg kept him out of the war, but he finds plenty of action in the bustling city.
When he sees a man being attacked by a group at the railroad station, he uses his trusty cane to fight them off, then finds a package strapped to the victim's chest. It contains two diaries that reveal a broad conspiracy implicating high government officials in the assassination plot. One is the diary of a woman, perhaps the president's widow. The other, written by a man, refers to Lincoln as a traitor and mentions “assassination.”
Through the rest of the novel, Temple and his nurse wife, Fiona, are under attack as they try to stay ahead of a growing crowd of important people hoping to keep contents of the diaries secret. Their friends come under fire. Fiona takes a train trip with the widow and later helps rescue Temple from a prison. Temple flees to New York but can't escape his pursuers.
The author's descriptions of Washington help set the time of the action. He describes how the rain has settled the dust but turned major streets into mud holes. The bright new dome of the Capitol shines over the city, and the Washington Monument is under construction.
All in all, this is a good story for history buffs as well as thriller addicts.
— Kay Dyer