James Swanson’s “Manhunt” reads like a master thriller, and Richard Thomas absolutely nails the narration of this book. The combination of Swanson’s writing and Thomas’s narration is extraordinary. At times it was hard to remember that what I was listening to was, in fact, historical nonfiction of which I already knew the outcome, because it had all the feel and excitement of an excellent fictional work. The detailed description and account of the attack by assassin Lewis Powell on Secretary of State Seward the same night Lincoln was shot, for instance, just blew me away. This book could be adapted into a wonderful screenplay, it’s that good.
This book needed an editor. It could have been much more effective at half its length. In the second half of the book especially, I started to believe that the author was making some of the same points he had made previously in the book. Further, at times instead of letting the story itself invoke the drama, I felt the author was often trying to (unnecessarily) force drama into the narrative. A few chapters sparkled, and most chapters contained something interesting, but overall the editing weaknesses were distracting to me.
This book might just get you to start questioning all the poor "conventional wisdom" floating about the news media nowadays. Very entertainingly educational (and nicely read to boot!), I'm hoping for a Freakonomics II and beyond.
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