Saturday, September 11, 2010

Book Review: The First Assassin

The First Assassin
By John J. Miller

The Secession Winter of 1861 had drawn to a close, and the United States stood upon the precipice of civil war by the time president elect, Abraham Lincoln, arrived at Washington, D. C. on February 23, 1861. Seven states had already left the Union and more were sure to follow. For John J. Miller, this is the perfect backdrop for his debut novel, “The First Assassin.”

After the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth president of the United States, Miller’s protagonist, Colonel Charles P. Rook, who previously under the direction of General-in-Chief, Winfield Scott, had been tasked with organizing the security detail to protect Mr. Lincoln, ignores the direct order of General Scott to cease and desist his clandestine efforts to uncover those who may not wish Mr. Lincoln well.

Rook’s investigations lead him to the front door of the home Washington socialite and Southern sympathizer, Violet Grenier. Rook and his small network of observers and informants soon find themselves embroiled in a cat and mouse game with Ms. Grenier, and Mazorca, an alien assassin hired by South Carolina planter, Langston Bennett, to kill Lincoln.

A parallel thread follows Portia, a fugitive slave fleeing from Bennett’s South Carolina plantation, as she makes her way north to Washington D. C. She has been sent on a mission by her grandfather to deliver a photograph of the assassin, Mazorca, to none other than Abraham Lincoln himself.

Miller’s narrative is nicely paced, switching between Bennett, Rook, Grenier, Mazorca and Portia, but as the bloody body count rises Miller’s tome doesn’t quite rise up to the merits of being labeled a thriller. His dialogue falls a little flat, and any one who is familiar with a few of Lincoln’s stories and quotes, may find one or two that he might recognize. What he does do exceedingly well, is give his readers a sense of place. His novel is very well researched and Civil War era Washington, D. C. emerges from the dust of nearly one hundred and fifty years.

All in all, Miller’s “The First Assassin” is an enjoyable novel to read, in that sense the author has accomplished his task well.

ISBN 978-1935597117, AmazonEncore, © 2010, Paperback, 448 pages, $14.95

No comments: