REVIEW: The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President by Julie M. Fenster

395213Title: The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President
Author: Julie M. Fenster
Year of Publication: 2008
Genre: Biography
Format: Audio
Length: 6 hours, 25 minutes
First Line: “Dr. George Agnell grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, and returned there to settle into predictably comfortable life after graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1847.”

Summary: In excruciating detail, author Fenster chronicles the 1856 case of murdered blacksmith George Anderson, and the role of young Illinois attorney and former congressman Abraham Lincoln. As the early days of the murder investigation unfold, a parallel narrative documents Lincoln’s stalled career; at the time, he “described himself as a flat failure,” watching other politicos “moving effortlessly into a life of luxury” while Lincoln “came home from his speaking tours… and went right back to buying groceries and mucking out the stall of his horse.” When Lincoln decides to take on the defense of George’s wife, the main suspect (for less than $100), it proves a brilliant and pivotal career move. The case became a phenomenon: “For infamy, Springfield had never seen anything like it…for complexity, it was far more interesting than the average property case.” Cannily, Lincoln figured it would become “a lawyer’s showcase,” and rose to the opportunity. Serving as “the backdrop for a year of sweeping transition for Abraham Lincoln,” the case is also entangled with the establishment of the Republican party that Lincoln would champion. Unfortunately, the changing winds of politics and the specifics of the murder case don’t make a perfect union; the story moves in fits and starts, making this meticulous and intimate look at the legendary Lincoln a worthwhile but labored read.

Review: My mistake about reading this book was not reading the back for the description. But I feel, that even if I had read the description of this book, it wouldn’t have helped me or changed this review. I picked this book (well, audio book) up because of one reason: the title. The title looked freaking amazing. And the author does a great job of making the title eye catching because the title has very little to do with the book. For a good while in the beginning, the author goes in great detail about a random (or seemingly random) murder case. She also discusses in great length and detail Lincoln’s help in creating the Republican party. But you know what the great thing is? The author liked to switch back and forth between these two story plots so you end up having NO IDEA WHAT IS GOING ON. And finally, FINALLY, on disc 7 (of 7!) when she reveals that this murder case she’s been rambling about is one that Lincoln happened to “take” as a lawyer right after the first elections of the Republican Party. But it gets better, Lincoln doesn’t really play much of a part in the murder case. He just kind of sits there during the trial. SO WHAT’S THE POINT OF THIS BOOK!? Nothing. There is no point. It was worse than a piece of crap. Don’t read it.

Worst part: The book.

Best part: When you realize what is going on!

Grade: F

Recommend For: Those who want to give it a shot after reading the synopsis, realizing that Lincoln really had nothing to do with this ‘case’, but are still interested.

Other Books by This Author: Race of the Century: The Heroic True Story of the 1908 New York to Paris Auto Race and FDR’s Shadow: Louis Howe, The Force That Shaped Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.


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