“The man with six weeks to live is anxious.” (pg. 3) This first sentence of Killing Lincoln draws the reader into the true story of the assassination of President Lincoln. Even I as a Canadian know the end of this story, in fact, I was in Washington D.C. last summer and sat in Ford’s Theater and saw the pistol Booth used to shoot Lincoln, but knowing the ending does not diminish the intrigue, planning, near misses, twists and turns that lead up to this historic event and the manhunt that followed.
In the opening “Note to Readers,” O’Reilly writes, “Before historian Martin Dugard and I began writing this book, I thought I understood the facts and implications of the assassination. But even though I am a former teacher of history, I had no clue. The ferocious assassination plan itself still has elements that have not been clarified. This is a saga of courage, cowardice, and betrayal. There are layers of proven conspiracy and alleged conspiracy that will disturb you. You will learn much in these pages, and the experience, I believe, will advance your understanding of our country, and how Lincoln’s murder changed it forever.” (pg. 1)
These layers are carefully and artfully laid out in such a way that the reader is so caught up in the story that the reality and the learning that is transpiring go almost unnoticed. The ending of the Civil War, the hopes and dreams of Lincoln for reunification and reconciliation, the scope of Booths plot, and the role of pride, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, and betrayal are woven together in a way that on the one hand is inspiring and on the other frightening.
O’Reilly has written several New York Times bestsellers and his rich vocabulary, skill at crafting a sentence and at engaging his readers evident in this work is bound to earn this work a high spot on that coveted list. He has succeeded in his goal to advance the understanding of this nation and of true heroism and cowardly betrayal and in the process he gives the reader a new appreciation for those who have helped shape this nation as well as inspiring that truly American ideal that every person can and does make a difference some like Lincoln for the good of all and others like Booth and his co-conspirators to the potential destruction of the nation. Read this book – learn some ‘well known’ details of history, understand how much worse the events of April 1865 could have been, and be inspired to preserve and improve this great nation.
Submitted by Jim Ritter