Perish from the Earth

Written by Jonathan F. Putnam
Review by Meg Wiviott

In 1837, a young Abraham Lincoln rides the circuit to dispense justice to remote areas of Illinois while his friend and roommate, Joshua Speed, rides his father’s steamboat along the Mississippi inspecting his father’s business interests. Speed is interrupted when a rigged card game turns into murder, and he enlists Lincoln to defend the artist accused of the crime. Speed and Lincoln discover a rigged card game is the least of the Speed family’s troubles. Speed fights to save his family’s name while he and Lincoln fight to save the life of an innocent man.

This is the second in Jonathan Putnam’s Lincoln & Speed Mystery series. The murder at the heart of this mystery is well-plotted and compelling. But this is not a murder mystery simply plopped down in an historical period. Putnam’s research is exceptional, giving attention to historical detail and dialogue. His ability to tie a completely fictional murder together with the historical murder of abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy and the tensions existing between Free States and Slave States after the Missouri Compromise gives substantial meat to a “simple” murder mystery. Putnam’s young Lincoln gives readers a glimpse into how the young man may have developed into one of the finest presidents in U.S. history. Attention to historical detail grounds the reader firmly in 19th-century western culture, which is as raw as the wounds caused by the institution of slavery. An excellent choice for both fans of historical murder mysteries and of accurate historical fiction.