HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Chasing Lincoln’s Killer
Author: James L. Swanson
Cover Illustrator: Phil Falco
Publisher: Scholastic Press Books, republished 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0439903547 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0439903547 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0545220910 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0545220912 Paperback
Related website(s): http://www.scholastic.com (publisher)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Swanson, James L. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer (Published in 2009 by Scholastic Inc., 557 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012). Nearly everyone knows that President Abraham was killed in 1865 shortly after his second inauguration and the end of the War Between the States. And most can identify the assassin as actor John Wilkes Booth. But what were the events that led up to the murder? Was anyone else besides Booth involved? And what happened to Booth? Did he escape, or was he brought to trial, or what? Based on rare archival material, obscure trial manuscripts, and interviews with relatives of the conspirators and the manhunters, New York Times bestselling author James Swanson delivers a fast-paced historical thriller with a riveting day-by-day account of the wild twelve-day chase, through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, for and capture of John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln’s killer.
Swanson begins “This story is true. All the characters are real and were alive during the great manhunt of April 1865. Their words are authentic and come from original sources: letters, manuscripts, trial transcripts, newspapers, government reports, pamphlets, books and other documents. What happened in Washington, D.C., that spring, and in the swamps and rivers, forests and fields of Maryland and Virginia during the next twelve days, is far too incredible to have been made up.” This volume is an adaptation of Swanson’s bestselling adult book Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (HarperCollins, 2006). It is divided into fourteen chapters and an epilogue. The sentences are shorter and chapters are condensed from the original, but the rich details and suspense are still present. Lacking are a bibliography and a notes section. Excellent black-and-white illustrations complement the text.
Some cursing (the “d” word) and profanity (“by God” and “for God’s sake”) occur in quotations, but the book does a good job of giving young people an accessible look at the assassination of a president, showing readers Abraham Lincoln the man, the father, the husband, and the friend, and explaining how his death impacted those closest to him. I was familiar with much of this lesser-known information because Dale Carnegie covers in his biography Lincoln the Unknown. Publishers Weekly says, “Every bit of dialogue is said to come from original sources, adding a chill to the already disturbing conspiracy that Swanson unfolds in detail as Booth persuades friends and sympathizers to join his plot and later, to give him shelter….The author reveals the depth of divisions in the nation just after the war, the disorder within the government and the challenges ahead.” And School Library Journal says, “Readers will be engrossed by the almost hour-by-hour search and by the many people who encountered the killer as he tried to escape. It is a tale of intrigue and an engrossing mystery.”