For The Associated Press

Timothy L. O’Brien takes a harsh, fictional look at the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and its aftermath in “The Lincoln Conspiracy.”

A month after Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theatre, the nation’s capital still resonates with trepidation. Police detective Temple McFadden ends up at the wrong place at the wrong time when he witnesses the murder of a man at a train station. Two books are strapped to his body, and Temple is able to obtain them before the man’s killers are able to do so. Temple soon realizes the books are diaries, two documents that together reveal the depth of “The Lincoln Conspiracy.” He also realizes that people are willing to kill to get them back.

The grip of fear that engulfs a nation just emerging from the Civil War is palatable. Historical figures that most readers will recognize appear throughout the narrative, creating a realistic tint to the tale. Temple’s wife, Fiona, has a background in medicine, but has difficulty finding respect in a field dominated by men. And there’s rampant racism against the newly freed slaves.

All of these elements play out against a backdrop of secrets and conspiracy. The history and overall arc of the novel are superb. The thriller elements are a bit weak, but that’s a minor nitpick. Readers will feel like they’re reading a non-fiction account of the events that occurred in 1865, and McFadden proves to be a worthwhile hero.

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