Final Resting Place

Written by Jonathan F. Putnam
Review by Tom Vallar

Twenty-nine-year-old trial lawyer Abraham Lincoln campaigns to save his seat in the Illinois Legislature as the Whigs’ standard-bearer. Summer 1838 promises to be heated politically as well as literally, because Democrat Stephen A. Douglas is also in Springfield campaigning to become a Senator. Tensions boil over at a lavish Fourth of July party when the head of the land office allegedly assassinates his rival. The political irony escalates when the accused, a Democrat, hires Lincoln to represent him, and Douglas is tasked with prosecuting a fellow Democrat.

With the help of his best friend and roommate, shopkeeper Joshua Fry Speed, Lincoln uncovers more clues than he can use. Complications arise in the form of his ne’er-do-well father and stepbrother, who arrive attracted by the promise of free food and easy money courtesy of some shadowy figures from Lincoln’s past. Their past and present actions could undo Abe’s good name in his adopted town. Newspapers publish threats on Lincoln’s life. His current paramour dies in a way that mimics the death of his first love, Ann Rutledge. An itinerant preacher fires up the masses, and the politically charged trial starts only two days after Lincoln is reelected while Douglas’s fate still hangs in the balance.

Putnam is a master at bringing Lincoln to life, and we see Douglas getting under his skin many years before their famous debates. The inclusion of Lincoln’s kin is especially poignant since Speed returns from his younger sister’s funeral just as the book begins, reflecting on the power of family. This is an intriguing historical mystery, made even more so because the author’s note alerts readers to the few ways in which Putnam’s novel differs from actual events. This third installment in the series will please the legion of Lincoln fans.