Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln - Stephen L. Carter

I became a fan of Stephen Carter's right away with his intelligent and superbly well-written novels The Emperor of Ocean Park and New England White.  Then he burned me with Jericho's Fall which I found just an complete disaster on all fronts.  So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I approached his latest - a novel set in the hypothetical world where Abraham Lincoln survives the assassination attempt at the Ford Theater and goes on to face an impeachment trial for overstepping his Constitutional authority during and after the Civil War and Reconstruction.  The general idea of writing with this type of historical background reminded me of Philip Roth's novel, The Plot Against America, in which Charles Lindberg is elected President of the United States.  I'm a bit ambivalent about the idea of playing with history in this way, but I thought I'd give Mr. Carter another shot.  And I'm glad that I did because this book is fantastic - not only well-written and intricate, but filled with intrigue and interesting characters.  The book centers around the law firm representing Mr. Lincoln in his impeachment proceedings, and in particular a black female law clerk, Abigail Canner, and her white male counterpart.  When one of the law firm partners is found murdered, Abigail distrusts the police investigation and finds herself (and her family) wrapped up in solving the mystery.  Throw in racial politics, courtroom drama, and countless society wives full of gossip and this book made for both a page turning thriller and a Gone with the Wind-esque soap opera.  The book is relatively long at approximately 520 pages and I wondered if Mr. Carter could keep it up throughout - and he did.  I also found his portrayal of Lincoln fascinating, and commend Mr. Carter on his keen research eye, as well as his fiction writing creativity.  A definite favorite for the year.

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