Everything about Abraham Lincoln continues to fascinate historians and inspire novelists. This seems to be the case for the historical suspense novel, The Lincoln Letter, author William Martin's fifth installment in the Peter Fallon series. A few years ago, I wrote a review of the second in this series, Harvard Yard, a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and which I think is his best story of the lot.
In The Lincoln Letter, antique hunter Peter Fallon and his on and off partner Evangeline Carrington are again drawn into an historical treasure hunt, spurred on by the discovery of a letter by Lincoln. Written on the day of his death to a Lieutenant Hutchinson, it states that the lieutenant possesses something that the president wants returned, something that had been missing for three years.
Peter, of course, is determined to find out what the missing something is, and travels to Washington D.C. to dig deeper into the mystery. But, others are also on the trail, people who have more sinister motives. Eventually, they all come to believe that the missing item is Lincoln's "day book", a diary where he has jotted down his thoughts on emancipation of the slaves.
As with his other books in the series, Martin jumps the reader back and forth in time, telling the story of Lieutenant Halsey Hutchinson and the day book; how he got hold of it, lost it, and strove to retrieve it again from 1862 through the end of the war and Lincoln's assassination. Along the way, Hutchinson witnesses historic events and is involved with infamous figures like Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Wilkes Booth, Walt Whitman, and the president himself.
In the present day, Peter and Evangeline face peril at the hands of the competition, who aren't afraid to use murder to get what they want. Of the Fallon novels, this may the the best after Harvard Yard, and is a couple of hundred pages shorter.