Manhunt Review
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Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincolnís Killer is an outstanding thriller, which is hard to do when everybody knows how the story is going to end. Pretty much every sixth-grader in the U.S. of A. can tell you that after John Wilkes Booth killed President Lincoln he went on the run for a few days. Then he was trapped and killed by the Union Army. This book follows along with Booth on his wild ride and into the barn where he died.

The book starts by giving the reader a quick lesson on the mood of the nation in the last days of the Civil War and of Washington D.C. in particular. Leeís army has been defeated in the field, and the Southern capital at Richmond, Virginia has been taken over by the Union forces. Itís clear that the Southís cause is falling apart, and President Lincoln is happy for the first time in years. On the Friday night before Easter, he and his wife decide to take in a play at Fordís Theater. Booth, who has played that theater dozen of times and has friends there, hears that the President will be there and decides that itís the perfect chance to kill the president.

Booth and a group of other Southern sympathizers had devised a plan a few months earlier to capture Lincoln, but they never attempted it. Now heís sure that killing Lincoln along with the vice-president and other key members of the cabinet will cause panic in the North, allowing the South a chance to re-group and continue the fight. But nothing goes as it should, and Booth is the only member of the gang to succeed in killing his targeted victim.

James Swanson is a gifted historical writer. He takes the bits and pieces of historical evidence surrounding the murder of Lincoln and ties it together to give the reader a gripping tale of a man on the run.

Swanson walks a fine line with the main character of the book. He paints a picture of Booth thatís reminiscent of a modern-day screen starówith expensive tastes in clothes and women, plus an enormous ego that had to be constantly fed. But he also manages to show that Booth was deeply passionate about the future of the Confederacy. Swanson also gives a detailed picture of Boothís partners in the crime and of the men who brought them to justice.

Manhunt is hard to put down. The pacing of the book is superb. It never drags, though it slows in places where readers need to absorb the facts of what theyíre reading, only to pick back up to break-neck speed a few pages later. The facts are never covered up for the sake of plot, either. This is the kind of book that makes learning a little bit about American history fun.

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