Book Tour Review: The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy L. O'Brien

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Title: The Lincoln Conspiracy 
Author: Timothy L. O'Brien
Genre: historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 353 (hardcover edition)
Published: September 2012
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

A nation shattered by its president’s murder. Two diaries that reveal the true scope of an American conspiracy. A detective determined to bring the truth to light, no matter what it costs him

From award-winning journalist Timothy L. O’Brien comes a gripping historical thriller that poses a provocative question: What if the plot to assassinate President Lincoln was wider and more sinister than we ever imagined?

In late spring of 1865, as America mourns the death of its leader, Washington, D.C., police detective Temple McFadden makes a startling discovery. Strapped to the body of a dead man at the B&O Railroad station are two diaries, two documents that together reveal the true depth of the Lincoln conspiracy. Securing the diaries will put Temple’s life in jeopardy—and will endanger the fragile peace of a nation still torn by war.

Temple’s quest to bring the conspirators to justice takes him on a perilous journey through the gaslit streets of the Civil War–era capital, into bawdy houses and back alleys where ruthless enemies await him in every shadowed corner. Aided by an underground network of friends—and by his wife, Fiona, a nurse who possesses a formidable arsenal of medicinal potions—Temple must stay one step ahead of Lafayette Baker, head of the Union Army’s spy service. Along the way, he’ll run from or rely on Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s fearsome secretary of war; the legendary Scottish spymaster Allan Pinkerton; abolitionist Sojourner Truth; the photographer Alexander Gardner; and many others.

Bristling with twists and building to a climax that will leave readers gasping, The Lincoln Conspiracy offers a riveting new account of what truly motivated the assassination of one of America’s most beloved presidents—and who participated in the plot to derail the train of liberty that Lincoln set in motion.

Historical fiction set in post-Civil War America is far from my forte or an time period I read much about, but when I was offered a chance to read The Lincoln Conspiracy as part of a blog tour, I couldn't resist. From the title to the cover to the blurb, this is a book that seemed right up my alley. Lincoln is one of those Presidents that will always intrigue and interest me and I was curious to see what type of individual spin O'Brien would use for his version of the events around the assassination. Timothy O'Brien proves himself a more than able storyteller in his easy-to-envision version of Lincoln's American. This wasn't a perfect read for me, but I was impressed enough with the author's style and imagination to be more than willing to read another book of his down the road. His obvious enthusiasm for American history and this particular time period shine through the narrative, and is one of the most compelling components to a well-constructed novel. 

Though I was interested in both the plot and the protagonist of Temple McFadden, the novel started off slowly for me. There's action and adventure and gunfights from the first chapter, but I wasn't fully involved in the plot being unwound until about halfway through the novel, and had a hard time being fully engaged in the story. I think that the introduction is so frenetic and fast-paced, I was left without a firm impression on who the key players were and what their motivations were towards the diaries. The suspense was not as heavy or all encompassing as I would have expected for a thriller novel about uncovering an assassination conspiracy; again I believe that is the result of breakneck speed at which everything happens in Temple's dogged and dangerous investigation. That isn't to say that I wasn't eventually caught up in the plot and reveals, but that it just took a while longer than I would have liked. Once The Lincoln Conspiracy starts hitting on all cylinders, it is an entertaining and vivid look at the fallout from one of America's most shocking events.

Coinciding with O'Brien's obvious knowledge and love for the time/area shown, it's easy to get a good feel for postbellum Washington, D.C. The scenery and the various aspects of the city are always described and so easy to imagine. Such detail is worked into the narrative easily, and doesn't distract from the main focus of the momentum that O'Brien started off with. Appearances from well-known historical personages - from Pinkerton to Lafayette Baker to Mary and Robert Todd Lincoln - are fun additions while adding to the overall benefit of the story. The main characters can come across as slightly blasé and flat, but for the most part, they are wildly disparate and well-rounded people with unique motivations and personalities. I thought the secondary and tertiary characters were great additions - and ones that often stole the show from Temple and his various antagonists.

I did have some issues with dialogue and vocabulary of the novel. Sometimes the interactions between characters and how they talked felt just off to me, but it was an intermittent problem and so small of a one that didn't distract me too much from the story itself. I also felt very uncomfortable with how many times the n-word was used - authentic or not. While that may be how the populace talked and addressed other races at the time, I will never be okay with reading it. A personal issue, to be quite honest, and one I don't begrudge the author for using. O'Brien is authentic to history in so many ways over the course of the novel, and my personal attitudes didn't drastically impact my reaction to the novel. Just be warned, it is used frequently.

The twist at the end is a good one, if not a wholly unexpected turn of events. Those familiar with conspiracies about Lincoln's death will half-expect how things turn out with the conspiracy, but O'Brien is more than capable of  managing to manipulate a different ending than the one I assumed it would be. If The Lincoln Conspiracy ends with less solid resolution than I think it deserved, it is still a rewarding, engaging and creative novel about an interesting time, peopled with well-drawn characters.

Don't miss the other stops in store for this fast-paced thriller! 

Tuesday, November 13
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Review & Giveaway at Always With a Book

Wednesday, November 14
Review at The Relentless Reader

Thursday, November 15
Review & Giveaway at The Novel Life
Author Interview & Giveaway at The Relentless Reader

Friday, November 16
Author Interview at The Novel Life

Monday, November 19
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Review at Lit Addicted Brit
Author Interview at Tribute Books

Tuesday, November 20
Review at The Bookworm
Feature & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry

Wednesday, November 21
Review at Crystal Book Reviews
Author Guest Post at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Friday, November 23
Review at Sir Read A Lot

Monday, November 26
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Tuesday, November 27
Review at A Bookish Affair
Author Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, November 28
Review at Book Journey
Review at My Reading Room
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, November 29
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Author Interview at My Reading Room

Friday, November 30
Review at Impressions in Ink

Monday, December 3
Review at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Giveaway at A Writer's Life: Working with the Muse

Tuesday, December 4
Review at Paperback Princess
Review at Cheryl's Book Nook

Wednesday, December 5
Review at Luxury Reading
Review at Stiletto Storytime
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Paperback Princess

Thursday, December 6
Review at One Book at a Time
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books


  1. Great review, Jessie! I'm pleased to see that the author delivered an accomplished historical novel that's both gripping and educational (at least for me!) Do you also plan on seeing the movie Lincoln when it comes out this week, seeing as you find Abraham Lincoln to be such a fascinating character?

    1. I do plan to! I am very interested by Lincoln and Daniel Day Lewis is always nothing short of impressive in his worl. Also: Joseph Gordon Levitt as Lincoln's son? I am so there!

  2. After reading The Lincoln Conspiracy, I am definitely on the edge of my seat about the movie! I loved the depth of The Lincoln Conspiracy but honestly don't remember the use of "the n word"...I teach in Southern MS and hear the word seems some young African American males call each other that (I can't even type the word here bc it is so inflammatory to me). I don't understand it in the least, and it stings everytime I hear it on our campus. So, I'm intrigued by why I didn't notice it in the book. Now I shall have to return to the book and do some digging :) I'm also wondering if maybe we're talking about two different "n words"? Very interesting and thorough review :)


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