Book Review: Manhunt

Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer

James L Swanson

Harper Perenniel

496 pages

I think we all know the condensed version of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865.  He was enjoying an evening at the theater when John Wilkes Booth burst in and shot him in the head.  I don’t know about you, but that was about all I knew, despite the fact that I read Henry & Clara a few years ago (more on that later).

Manhunt certainly filled in the gaps for me.  I had no idea that Booth had been on the run for twelve days after the shooting, quite a feat given that the entire nation was on the lookout for him.  Given the political climate of the day, the Civil War having just ended, Booth would have had relative security had he only made it to the deep south.  He had a bit of difficulties along the way though, including the broken leg he suffered when leaping from the presidential box directly after the shooting.

John Wilkes Booth

As I mentioned before, I read a historical novel called Henry & Clara, by Thomas Mallon, which was about Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris, a step brother and sister who ended up marrying after the assassination and wound up with their own salacious circumstances throughout the years.  I think that if I had read Henry & Clara more recently, I would have had a better insight, so they would definitely be great books to read in tandem.

I used to be a big non-fiction buff, but I have found that I rarely read non-fiction anymore.  I have no idea if that is due to my book blogging; I have a feeling that it is a contributing factor.  I just don’t seem to enjoy it as much anymore, so I have a feeling I would have appreciated this book more if I had read it a few years ago. 

Manhunt was, however, written in a very readable, fiction-like way, which I appreciated.  500 pages can seem long though, and I felt the length in this case.  Given the fact that the book really only focuses on the twelve days Booth was on the run, along with a bit of his personal history, I felt that it could have been condensed more.  Other than that, I really have no complaints, and I would recommend this book to people interested in American history and/or non-fiction.

Other Reviews:

A Library is a Hospital for the Mind

One-Minute Book Reviews

I purchased this book from Barnes & Noble.


9 Responses

  1. Very interesting, I’ve had this book on my TBR list since it came out. I read a lot of non-fiction also but fiction book take me a very short time to read while non-fiction much longer.

    Have you read Booth’s Sis­ter by Jane Singer ( It’s a his­tor­i­cal fic­tion based on Asia Booth’s diary.

  2. Good review. Thanks for the information without ruining the book. 🙂

  3. I saw a documentary about John Wilkes Booth being on the run after the assassination and it was so interesting. I found it flipping channels one day and watched the whole thing. I’m thinking this is a book I would like. Great review!

  4. I love reading books that are on similar topics and the overlay that it provides. It makes it so much easier to understand what’s going on.

  5. I read this book a couple months ago and absolutely loved it! Couldn’t put it down, and I don’t read much nonfiction either. I really want to read Bloody Crimes but have heard it’s a bit watered down compared to this one, so no rush.

  6. I actually met Swanson last fall and found him to be endlessly fascinating. I’d really like to try one of his books.

  7. I’m not a huge reader of non-fiction but sometimes the need graps me. My American history is ok but I have no idea the killer escapes and went on the run, I just asumed he was immediately arrested.

  8. Thanks Lola. I’m reading this review late, but I recently finished Manhunt myself. I’m actually a huge non-fiction reader… mostly ancient history, so this book was actually more modern than my typical read if you can believe that.

    Because so many history books cover wide scopes of history, I actually enjoyed the detailed narrative of Manhunt, which, as you point out, focuses on just 12 days of events.

    Variety is the spice of life, right?

    Thanks for the review!

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