The Hour of Peril: Book summary and reviews of The Hour of Peril by Daniel Stashower

The Hour of Peril

The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War

By Daniel Stashower

The Hour of Peril
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2013,
    368 pages.

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Book Summary

Daniel Stashower, the two-time Edgar award–winning author of The Beautiful Cigar Girl, uncovers the riveting true story of the "Baltimore Plot," an audacious conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War.

In February of 1861, just days before he assumed the presidency, Abraham Lincoln faced a "clear and fully-matured" threat of assassination as he traveled by train from Springfield to Washington for his inauguration. Over a period of thirteen days the legendary detective Allan Pinkerton worked feverishly to detect and thwart the plot, assisted by a captivating young widow named Kate Warne, America's first female private eye.

As Lincoln's train rolled inexorably toward "the seat of danger," Pinkerton struggled to unravel the ever-changing details of the murder plot, even as he contended with the intractability of Lincoln and his advisors, who refused to believe that the danger was real. With time running out Pinkerton took a desperate gamble, staking Lincoln's life - and the future of the nation - on a "perilous feint" that seemed to offer the only chance that Lincoln would survive to become president.  Shrouded in secrecy - and, later, mired in controversy - the story of the "Baltimore Plot" is one of the great untold tales of the Civil War era, and Stashower has crafted this spellbinding historical narrative with the pace and urgency of a race-against-the-clock thriller.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The book starts out slow, but once Stashower lets the Pinkerton operatives loose, their race against time as Lincoln's train speeds toward Maryland makes for an enthralling page-turner that is sure to please true crime, thriller, and history fans. Photos." - Publishers Weekly

"Stashower's character-driven narrative and lively writing style reveal the finely honed skills of an accomplished mystery writer. Recommended." - Library Journal

"The world's most famous private eye saves Abraham Lincoln's life - and perhaps the Union itself? Sounds like fiction, but in Daniel Stashower's riveting new book, it's all true. It's history that reads like a race-against-the-clock thriller." - Harlan Coben

"Reads like a first-class detective novel ... Pinkerton's tireless energy prevented a tragedy that might have destroyed the republic." - James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom

"A fast-paced page turner. Stashower deploys the skills of a gifted veteran mystery writer." - Michael Burlingame, author of Abraham Lincoln: A Life

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Carol Peters
Introduction to Pinkerton's new Secret Service
I enjoyed being introduced to new characters in this very detailed novel following Lincoln’s pre-inauguration trip to Washington DC. I never realized the danger Lincoln was under as he made his way to Washington. Alan Pinkerton’s secret service agency which included a female agent Kate Warne, were new historical elements to a very tumultuous time.
The author provided great perspective of the political dynamics impacting the decision of how Lincoln would arrive in Washington due to the secessionist climate in Baltimore. Ultimately Pinkerton prevailed and Lincoln arrived in DC by bypassing the city. Unfortunately this decision created a negative view of Lincoln’s character and many, who did not believe in a potential assassination plot, portrayed Lincoln as a coward.
It is a tragedy to think of Lincoln’s tragic death so soon after the Civil War ended. Mr. Stashowever’s novel made me realize how fortunate our country was to have had this gifted man as our President at all.
I would recommend to book clubs to discuss the role of women in the civil war and to review the political climate and impact on society in the 19th century

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Mary G. (Purcellville, VA)
An informative but slow read
"The Hour of Peril" reminded me a lot of Erik Larson's "Devil in the White City". It takes an interesting subject and tells it is such a didactic manner as to make it difficult to slog your way through. I persevered and learned a lot about Allan Pinkerton and the early science of investigation. The reviewer quoted on the front of the book called it a "riveting" book and a "race-against-the-clock thriller." I don't think he actually read the book.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Linda J. (Manchester, MO)
The Hour of Peril
History buffs will thoroughly enjoy "The Hour of Peril," a little known story about a foiled assassination plot on Abraham Lincoln as he traveled by train from Springfield, IL to Washington, DC for his inauguration. Author Daniel Stashower starts with how Allen Pinkerton formed his famous detective agency, then moves to how he uncovers the plot that could destroy the Republic, should it succeed. He has done a masterful job of narrating and building suspense, even though we know the outcome. My only complaint was the number of characters – I found myself having to go back several times to find out who was who. That aside, Stashower moves the story along, ferreting out the details of the planned attempt, all the while keeping Lincoln in the dark until the last minute, since Lincoln is dead set on meeting the public at each train stop. I predict "The Hour of Peril" will have a good run.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Elizabeth W. (Van Buren, AR)
The Hour of Peril
An interesting history of the Pinkerton agency, but rather slow and clumsy to read.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Diane D. (Blairstown, NJ)
Eye-Opening Book!
Since I knew Abraham Lincoln had lived to become President, I was surprised that the book kept me on edge, wondering what would happen next. It is very well written, though I was also surprised that it was also a biography of Allan Pinkerton. I wasn't expecting that!

It was interesting to note that a woman was used as a "go-between"...something I've noticed in books about the Revolution, as well as the Civil War. I guess it was easier for them to move about and be in contact with those who mattered.

This book would be a good one for book clubs, because there is a lot to discuss. Not only would there be discussion on Abe Lincoln and the conspiracy, but also about Allan Pinkerton & Kate Warne.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Jan C. (San Antonio, Texas)
A plot revealed from the inside!
This book was very very detailed. Knowing the outcome already it was not suspenseful even though the events could have led to the reader feeling suspense. It took me a longer time to read than usual because of the detailed accounts that were too frequently repeated. A timeline in the book might have helped the reader and a map showing the route of the train trip would have been helpful. What I did like was the glimpses it provided into Lincoln's character. The intimate details of the detectives activities made the story come alive. Learning about Pinkerton was interesting.

...18 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Daniel Stashower Author Biography

Daniel Stashower is an acclaimed biographer and narrative historian and winner of the Edgar, Agatha, and Anthony awards, and the Raymond Chandler Fulbright Fellowship in Detective Fiction.

He is the author of six nonfiction works including The Hour of Peril, The Boy Genius and The Mogul as well as the Edgar Award-winning Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle. He is also the author of five mystery novels, the most recent of which is The Houdini Specter.

Stashower is a recipient of The Raymond Chandler Fulbright Fellowship in Detective and Crime Fiction Writing, and spent a year as a Visiting Fellow at Wadham College, Oxford. A freelance journalist since 1986, Stashower's articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Smithsonian ...

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