Feature

Novel of the week: The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter

Carter's political thriller brings 1867 Washington alive.

(Knopf, $27)

This “disappointing dud of a book” starts with a great premise, said Mike Fischer in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. By moving John Wilkes Booth’s bullet one inch, Yale law professor Stephen Carter spares Abraham Lincoln from early death and exposes him to the same post–Civil War impeachment campaign that befell his true-life successor, Andrew Johnson. But whereas Carter has deftly used fiction to explore real-world concerns before, here his alternative history gets hijacked by an “improbable” melodrama starring an aspiring black lawyer named Abigail Canner. Canner is a bit much—”a black Nancy Drew” who’s “always noticing what everybody else missed,” said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. But Carter has managed to bring 1867 Washington alive. Forgive this book its corniness and you’ll be able to enjoy it as “an intelligent summer lark,” a political thriller “rooted in the legal, political, and racial conflicts of 19th-century America.”

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