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Perish From The Earth
Lincoln & Speed Mystery #2
Jonathan F. Putman

Crooked Lane
July 11, 2017/ ISBN 978-1-68331-139-3
Mystery/Historical

Reviewed by Laura Hinds

 

Abraham Lincoln is a young trial lawyer who is traveling the circuit in remote parts of Illinois. He is one of the several lawyers and a judge who set up in distance towns to deliver justice in all sorts of legal cases. In Alton, there is unrest regarding slavery, but there has also been a murder upon a steamboat that has just come up the Mississippi River. The trial of an artist who was aboard the ship, and accused as the killer is set to take place in Alton.

Lincoln’s good friend, Joshua Speed was on the same steamboat, which belongs to his father, Judge Speed. The journey was marked by a rigged card game, too much alcohol, and a violent confrontation which may or may not have led to the murder of John W. Jones, of Nashville. Speed becomes involved, as does his sister, Martha, in helping Lincoln to clear the name of the artist, George Bingham.

This book took me back in time so fully that I felt as though I was an individual in the background, watching and listening, immersed in every scene. Putnam is a master storyteller, and his ability to draw out the essence of each character is superb. I reveled in finding a new understanding of who Lincoln was as a young man, and how his viewpoints on slavery may have been influenced by events of the time.

Painfully honest about the harsh and brutal conditions of life in the late 1830’s, I also found myself oddly yearning for a simpler time, yet in the next breath, realizing that it wasn’t much simpler after all. The legal system and politics have always been fraught with contention, lies, and corruption. Yet Lincoln strove to rise above it, and this work of fiction added another dimension to my understanding of who Lincoln was and how he came to be the man he was. Putnam paints a vivid picture with words, bringing the past to life as if in front of my very eyes.

The mystery, however, remains the heart of the book, and it is carefully woven. Little by little the threads throughout the story come together to tell a tale that is both expected and surprising at once.

“Perish From The Earth” is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you are either a mystery buff or a history buff, this book is for you. If you happen to be both, I’m certain you will be captivated by its raw and honest look at this part of American history and by the beauty of the language used to portray the people, both real and imaginary.

Reviewed 2017
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