Chasing Lincoln's Killer
James L. Swanson
2009; Scholastic; 978-0-439-90354-7 (hardcover)
Summary: Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. After John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, he escaped Washington, D.C. and hid in houses, woods and barns. For twelve days, Booth managed to elude the manhunters after him, all the while eagerly anticipating the press coverage he would receive for shooting the president. He thought the recently-defeated Confederacy rise up and press the advantage of the confusion, to start refighting the Civil War. But it was not to be; John Wilkes Booth was branded an evil criminal, not hailed as a dramatic hero. As the net tightened around Booth, not just his accomplices were drawn into this strange story. There were government officials, soldiers, widows and doctors and Vice-President Andrew Johnson. But in the end, the story was still about John Wilkes Booth.
In a blood-spattered account of the search for John Wilkes Booth, based on his adult book Manhunt, James L. Swanson creates a gripping story about a tumultous twelve days. Although prone to somewhat-forgivable editorializing, there is also rather too many shifts in the action from one story thread to another. Yet it can't be denied that this is a very readable book, one that pulls the reader in and makes history come alive. In addition, it's a handsomely-designed work, full of sepia-tinged photographs and engravings. A book that reads like a historical action movie, Chasing Lincoln's Killer is bound to be popular with middle-schoolers.