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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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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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  • award image Edgar Awards, 2014

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

The information about The Hour of Peril shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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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.

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.

Erin J. (Milwaukie, OR)

History comes to life
There is no mystery how this book will end: Lincoln survives his journey and is inaugurated as President of the United States. And yet somehow Daniel Stashower has turned historical fact into a nail-biting thriller. I was expecting essentially a biography of Lincoln's time leading up to his presidency, but the whole first third or so of the book is really a biography of Allen Pinkerton, the man who created the profession of private investigators. It's fascinating! I cannot wait to give this book to my history buff father-in-law. And maybe buy copies for my husband and my dad while I'm at it. And my mom, and....

Kathleen W. (New Brighton,, MN)

And you thought 2012 WAS THE Election Year!
Disguises,female spies, assassination ballots,fake identities... SUBTERFUGE! On the heels of Obama vs. Romney comes THE HOUR OF PERIL by Daniel Stashower.Coming off a 2012 election that was at points ridiculous and riveting, THE HOUR OF PERIL knocks this telling of the conspiracy to kill Abraham Lincoln pre-inauguration, right out of the park. With quotes from the newspapers of the day, this historical saga, ostensibly about Lincoln, is actually more a panorama of US history, circa 1861. Peopled by John Brown, Frederick Douglas, John Hay, Abe Lincoln and most markedly, Allan Pinkerton, this is political REALITY at its most horrifying. This is the REAL DEAL. If you like American history and have always wondered about the early "Secret Service", you'll be sorry if you miss this one!

Les G. (Fort Collins, CO)

History that reads like a novel
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower is one of the finest historical true crime books I've ever read. Since everyone knows that Lincoln in fact made it to his inauguration alive, Stashower faced a difficult job in building suspense throughout the book. Stashower has risen to this challenge and produced a book that builds in suspense as Alan Pinkerton races to uncover and neutralize a conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln as his inauguration train passes through Baltimore.

The Hour of Peril describes not only Pinkerton's race against time, but does an excellent job of describing the environment of the United States on the very brink of civil war. This is an outstanding book which anyone with any interest in Lincoln and the civil war will enjoy.

David M. (Glendale, CA)

1861: Historical Fact Meets Mystery and Suspense
As a civil war buff, I truly enjoyed reading Stashower's "The Hour of Peril". Amidst an aura of mystery and suspense surrounding the early plot on Lincoln's life, it was fascinating to read the endless amount of detailed information concerning Allan Pinkerton. For that matter, just like a modern-day thriller, Pinkerton's tireless efforts to stop this terrible plot of 1861 will leave readers at the edge of their seat.

...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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