Murder in the Oval Library (Lincoln’s White House Mystery)

Written by C. M. Gleason
Review by Sarah Hendess

Eight hundred feet is all that separates the White House from Confederate troops two days after the firing on Fort Sumter. With President Lincoln’s safety in jeopardy, Adam Speed Quinn, nephew of the President’s friend Joshua Speed, and Senator Jim Lane bring a contingent of former Jayhawkers from Kansas into the White House to protect him. But the first night this “Frontier Guard” is on watch, there is a brutal murder in the library just outside the President’s bedchamber. As the days tick by and the threat of a Confederate invasion increases, Quinn, with the assistance of would-be journalist Sophie Gates and African-American physician George Hilton, must find the murderer among them.

It would have been easy for Gleason to focus only on the murder, but she goes further by providing rich detail about this brief yet fascinating period of the capital’s history. Along the way, readers learn about the hardships the city’s inhabitants faced as the Rebels cut off supply lines, President Lincoln’s frustration over the failure of Union troops to arrive, the struggles of the free black community, and the inconveniences of navigating life in a corset. Gleason masterfully raises the tension surrounding the murder in tandem with the desperation and fear of the city’s inhabitants, keeping me turning pages well past my bedtime.

Apart from one silly Southern belle who could have been removed without significantly affecting the plot, Murder in the Oval Library clips along without a hitch. This is the second book in Gleason’s Lincoln’s White House Mystery series, but it reads well as a standalone. I have not read the first book in the series, but this novel was such a good time that I intend to track it down. Highly recommended.