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Publisher's Summary

The true story of Abraham Lincoln’s last murder trial, a case in which he had a deep personal involvement - and which played out in the nation’s newspapers as he began his presidential campaign

At the end of the summer of 1859, 22-year-old Peachy Quinn Harrison went on trial for murder in Springfield, Illinois. Abraham Lincoln, who had been involved in more than 3,000 cases - including more than 25 murder trials - during his two-decades-long career, was hired to defend him. This was to be his last great case as a lawyer.

What normally would have been a local case took on momentous meaning. Lincoln’s debates with Senator Stephen Douglas the previous fall had gained him a national following, transforming the little-known, self-taught lawyer into a respected politician. He was being urged to make a dark-horse run for the presidency in 1860. Taking this case involved great risk. His reputation was untarnished, but should he lose this trial, should Harrison be convicted of murder, the spotlight now focused so brightly on him might be dimmed. He had won his most recent murder trial with a daring and dramatic maneuver that had become a local legend, but another had ended with his client dangling from the end of a rope.

The case posed painful personal challenges for Lincoln. The murder victim had trained for the law in his office, and Lincoln had been his friend and his mentor. His accused killer, the young man Lincoln would defend, was the son of a close friend and loyal supporter. And to win this trial he would have to form an unholy allegiance with a longtime enemy, a revivalist preacher he had twice run against for political office - and who had bitterly slandered Lincoln as an “infidel...too lacking in faith” to be elected.

Lincoln’s Last Trial captures the presidential hopeful’s dramatic courtroom confrontations in vivid detail as he fights for his client - but also for his own blossoming political future. It is a moment in history that shines a light on our legal system, as in this case Lincoln fought a legal battle that remains incredibly relevant today.

©2018 Dan Abrams and David Fisher (P)2018 Harlequin Enterprises, Limited

Critic Reviews

“Makes you feel as if you are watching a live camera riveted on a courtroom more than 150 years ago.” (Diane Sawyer)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • M.
  • Pilot Mountain, New Caledonia
  • 07-15-18

Great listen for lawyers and those interested in history

The detail and the story are fascinating. The book is woven into a compelling read for anyone who has even a passing interest in Lincoln and litigation

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 06-20-18

For Lawyers and Lincoln Lovers

"Talk to the jury as though your client's fate depends on every word you utter. Forget that you have any one to fall back upon, and you will do justice to yourself and your client."
- Abraham Lincoln

There are many levels of biography and history. There are academic books, published by small academic presses. There are popular biographies, written by journalists, etc., that tend to follow a more narrative-style. Obviously, Dan Abram's short history of Abraham Lincoln's last murder trial fits the last category. The "author" Dan Abrams is ABC's chief legal affairs anchor for ABC. Normally, this isn't a book I would have gravitated towards, except for two things: 1) I love Lincoln, and typically read a couple Lincoln books a year. 2) This book's ghost writer (yes Virginia, many books "written by celebrities/politicos/athletes are actually penned by a ghostwriter) is a good friend of mine. I've known David Fisher for years. I've stayed with him and his lovely wife on Fire Island, eaten with them a couple times in Manhatten and Riverdale and enjoyed David's perspective on politics, writing, and reading for years. Anyway, a couple months ago we had dinner at an Upper-Westside restaurant and his wife gave me her well-loved ARC of this book. I'm constantly amazed at how fast and how well Dave writes*. Plus, my kids absolutely adore him.

The highlight of this book, and what sets David's work apart from other Lincoln biographies, was his use of Robert Roberts Hitt's transcript of the Peachy Quinn Harrison murder trial. Hitt was a character himself (and one I knew nothing about previously) and was influential in the development of transcription. I also enjoyed how the book explored the development of the American legal system during the pre-Civil War period. A lot of the legal precedents, values, and practices we take for granted now were being hammered out in frontier courts and circuits all across America. Finally, it was fascinating to learn how far each of the lawyers (and the judge) associated with this trial went. It seemed almost like America in the 1850s and 1860s was a place where someone with exceptonal talent could easily rise to the national stage. Just look at Lincoln.

* Dave has written over 20 New York Times bestsellers.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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First rate!

Excelent performance! I will be recommending this book to friends and family as a few into a bygone era.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great piece of American history

Remember this is lost history brought together so the flow can be rough, many characters have to be introduced to paint the pictures. The book is about Lincoln's last trial and not necessarily Lincoln himself so don't forget that as other characters are the focus. Enjoy!

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim
  • Topeka, KS, United States
  • 07-14-18

Exceptional History I Had Never Heard Before About Lincoln

No American has been the subject of scholarship over the years than Abe Lincoln. I have read some of the hundreds of books people have written about Lincoln. Yet, I never heard this story about Lincoln’s last case. Dan Abrams wrote a fascinating story that provides insight into Lincoln about to head into his Presidential future.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding and professionally done!

This book's content the way it was brought to your attention the way it was said was excellent from start to end. The narration was perfect and everything was on point. Very worth your time!

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Interesting sidelight on Lincoln.

I should preface by saying that I have worked in law firms all of my adult life, so maybe the subject matter was particularly interesting to me. I had never thought about the beginning of court stenography and found that having that angle made the book even more interesting. The author did a good job of describing some real world influences on the development of a legal case and the stenography angle provided an unexpected historical bonus. Well worth the read.

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Good inside baseball story

This is some good insight on Lincoln the man tells a story that should be told

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Lots of imagination

This is a rather short book but it would have been shorter if all the imagined thoughts had been left out.

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Good not great

A lot more could have been done with this. at it's best it is a fascinating look at an interesting case. at it's worst it's almost old time story telling at a grade school level.