Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In an Alternate Universe...

Ever wonder what might have happened if Lincoln had not been assassinated?  Stephen L. Carter has.  In his book, The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, he has turned casual wondering into intriguing speculation and created a taut, gripping, and rather fantastic historical mystery story.

In this story, Lincoln survived the assassination attempt at Ford's Theater.  His Vice President, Andrew Johnson, did not. Instead of being viewed as a benevolent father leading the nation through a healing process, Lincoln is viewed as a tyrant selling out the Northern victory to accommodate the defeated South.  Now, Lincoln is facing impeachment charges brought against him by the United States Senate.

The central figure in this story is Abigail Canner, a well-educated young black woman.  Determined to overcome the two strikes against her, Abigail's great ambition is to become a lawyer.  She is hired as a clerk in a Washington law firm that just happens to be defending President Lincoln in his impeachment trial.

When Lincoln's lead defense attorney is found murdered in the company of a black woman assumed to be a prostitute, Abigail is thrust into the heart of the mystery where she pursues threads of an ever deepening plot that seem to lead back to members of her own family.

In the telling of his story, Carter provides insights into political tactics and the destructiveness of hardened political positions, the status of women, a different perspective on the struggles of African-Americans, and a different perspective of a critical time in our nation's history.

As it turns out, Carter has a lot to teach us, but his saving grace is that he never forgets his story.  The little lessons along the way always support the story and stay in the background  there for you if you care to see them.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book and a compelling mystery.  The history and the cultural lessons are a nice bonus offered without being intrusive.


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