The Lincoln Letter

Written by William Martin
Review by Ilysa Magnus

I never miss the chance to read a Peter Fallon/Evangeline Carrington novel because Martin has the uncanny ability to seamlessly interweave a modern related story with historical events. This is one of William Martin’s best efforts, and although I have never been a Civil War buff, this book snared me from the start.

Halsey Hutchinson is wounded at Ball’s Bluff early in the Civil War. Of a well-established Boston family, Hutchinson winds up working in Lincoln’s War Department and is at the epicenter of the war’s activities and of Lincoln’s thinking about emancipation and the war effort. Almost every night, Lincoln visits Halsey and his companion as they field telegrams coming in from the front. The President welcomes their companionship during this difficult time. Though Hutchinson is not an abolitionist, he sees firsthand the torment that darkens Lincoln’s soul. And one evening, Lincoln mistakenly leaves behind his diary, a book where he opens up that soul knowing that the doubts, fears, hopes he harbors are meant for no one’s eyes but his own. Halsey takes it – and it is stolen from him. And so Peter and Evangeline’s hunt – some 150 years later – begins.

Peter, a universally renowned book dealer from Boston, and his once-to-be-wife, Evangeline, need to find that diary, a book which could change the world’s perspective about the Great Emancipator. As Martin shifts the focus back and forth from modern-day Washington to the Civil War, we are introduced to folks who intersect with Halsey’s path – Walt Whitman, Clara Barton, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Wilkes Booth – all of whom become real people in this terrific story. Civil War Washington itself becomes a character.

I enjoyed this book immensely and recommend it, not merely as a fun read but, in a time when interest in Lincoln is at a peak, since it so humanizes the President.