Audie Award Finalist, History, 2014
Daniel Stashower, the two-time Edgar award-winning author of The Beautiful Cigar Girl, uncovers the riveting true story of the "Baltimore Plot", an audacious conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War.
In February of 1861, just days before he assumed the presidency, Abraham Lincoln faced a "clear and fully-matured" threat of assassination as he traveled by train from Springfield to Washington for his inauguration. Over a period of 13 days the legendary detective Allan Pinkerton worked feverishly to detect and thwart the plot, assisted by a captivating young widow named Kate Warne, America’s first female private eye.
As Lincoln’s train rolled inexorably toward "the seat of danger", Pinkerton struggled to unravel the ever-changing details of the murder plot, even as he contended with the intractability of Lincoln and his advisors, who refused to believe that the danger was real. With time running out Pinkerton took a desperate gamble, staking Lincoln’s life - and the future of the nation - on a "perilous feint" that seemed to offer the only chance that Lincoln would survive to become president.
Shrouded in secrecy - and, later, mired in controversy - the story of the "Baltimore Plot" is one of the great untold tales of the Civil War era, and with The Hour of Peril Stashower has crafted a spellbinding historical narrative with the pace and urgency of a race-against-the-clock thriller.
I've read a ton of Civil War books so the "secret plot" is by no means new to me but I was interested in getting more details about it since I never studied it in any depth. In fact there is quite a bit of debate about how real the plot was so I looked forward to reading (listening) to this book.
First -- the book is written from almost 100% a northern perspective. For example when talking about John Brown, who murdered 5 innocent people in Kansas, the author states that 5 people were killed during a raid into Kansas. Killed and murder are words that have very different meanings. John Brown was certainly on the right side of the issue, but that doesn't change the fact he was murderous psychopath. There are many many many examples of the author framing peoples backgrounds to make the story flow. Don't get me wrong, this isn't like Al Franken doing a book about Reagan, it's not political and what the author is writing isn't lies, it's just incomplete. If you already have a strong knowledge of the Civil War you'll pick-up on this very quickly and you'll be able to adjust the story accordingly. However if you're new to the subject I highly suggest you do additional reading to get a more balanced view of the subject and characters involved. More information is always better than less information.
Second -- this book is more about Allan Pinkerton than it is about the plot itself. I knew this going in so I wasn't disappointed. The problem with Pinkerton is that he, in everything else I've ever read, was very much known as a self-promoter and tended to exaggerate things -- this is one of the reason that there is such debate over the "secret plot." I did find this book extremely helpful in regard to this and I'm satisfied that even if the plot was exaggerated it was indeed real.
Third -- this book is not a well researched history of the "secret plot", instead it's Allan Pinkerton's version of events. There were additional people that were involved that were outside of Pinkerton's spy ring and their sides of the story are not told in any detail and pretty much only mentioned when they came into collision with Pinkerton.
OK so with all that said you're probably wondering why I still give the book 4-stars. Well I found it interesting even with all it's faults. It is a much more detailed look at a piece of history I knew about but didn't know in depth. Also I was interested in learning more about Pinkerton as he plays a part in a lot of the different happenings during the Civil War and if nothing else this book gives me a great overview of him.
The story itself starts off slow but picks up steam as it goes along. After the first few hours, which were quite dull to me, the book picks up steam and become much more interesting,
The reader does a good job and has the appropriate tone for book.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful
This is really the story of Pinkerton. It takes more than half the book before he's even on the train. A disappointment.
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
While I wouldn't say this was a waste of time, I would say that the book was more about the life of Allan Pinkerton and the genesis of his detective agency than it was about the plot to murder Lincoln. In my opinion the title of this book is rather misleading.
How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?
Perhaps if the author would have focused more on the the veracity of the specific plot there would have been more energy in the book. There are too many details about Pinkerton and too many details about the politics of the time all trying to set the stage for this story--but then the story-line nevers quite develops. I'm disappointed because I enjoyed this authors mystery books so I expected more suspense.
What about Edoardo Ballerini’s performance did you like?
I enjoyed his delivery of a sometimes bland narrative.
Did The Hour of Peril inspire you to do anything?
One thing that did intrigue me was the story of Kate Warren-who was the first female detective in the US. I began doing some research about her as I finished the book because I find her story rather compelling.
Any additional comments?
I really enjoyed listening to the interview with the author at the end of the book--although he initially sounds like he's reading from a script to answer the questions. It was curious to me that when he asked about his motiviation to write the book he mentioned that he was having lunch with mystery writing colleagues who suggested he write something about Kate Warren. Het never does tell how he got from Kate Warren to the plot to kill Lincoln which I found amusing...since he essentially does the same thing in this book. He talks about Pinkerton but never quite gets to the suspense of this murder plot.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful