The Lincoln Letter is the tenth and latest William Martin’s series of historical novels, several of which feature antiquarian book dealer Peter Fallon. Now Fallon is back and hot on the trail of a heretofore unknown letter written by Abraham Lincoln on the last day of his life. The letter is brief, addressed to former War Department decoder Hawley Hutchinson , and seems to refer to a diary that Lincoln lost earlier in the Civil War. Fallon heads to Washington DC, only to discover that he is not the only hunter in this increasingly dangerous quest. While Fallon is feverishly searching and defending his life, a series of flashbacks, narrated from the point of view of Hutchinson, illustrate how and why this mystery came to pass. The plot is enriched by the actions of colorful characters in both time periods, and I found the Civil War story the more compelling. Martin adroitly handles the moral issues of slavery and political machination without becoming preachy, and the African American characters are among the best developed. Why were people so determined to find Lincoln’s diary in the 1860’s? For its value to anti-Lincoln factions for use as a weapon. Why are they so determined in the early 2000’s? For the diary’s value, to history, yes, but more importantly, for the fortune it would bring.
A fast paced, engrossing tale, thoughtful and well presented.