"[The Case of Abraham Lincoln is a beautifully nuanced portrait of Lincoln in the turning-point year of 1856 when the former Whig joined the new Republican party, gave what many considered to be his greatest speech and suddenly found himself a national figure." - Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune
"The microview Fenster offers of both Lincoln's life and the daily experience in mid-19th century Springfield is fascinating...Fenster does an excellent job of allowing us to watch [Lincoln] grow, almost as if by time-lapse photography...a gem indeed." - Marjorie Kehe, Christian Science Monitor
"Through the lens of a sensational 1856 Springfield, Ill., murder case, a historian focuses on Abraham Lincoln the lawyer and politician, four years before his election to the presidency… An unexpected, odd-angle approach to Lincoln that proves marvelously insightful."—Kirkus (Starred review)
"what The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder and the Making of a Great President achieves is something few college history courses and certainly accompanying textbooks are able to: great storytelling." Chicago Sun-Times
"In [The Case of Abraham Lincoln] we learn how Abraham Lincoln averted one looming if by comparison rather small injustice, and also how he began the business of ending a much vaster and more terrible one." - Fredeic Smoler, AmericanHeritage.com
"The Case of Abraham Lincoln provides an intense view of Lincoln's life shortly before he ran for President of the United States. It is an interesting take on well-trod biographical territory." - Salem Press
"Biographies of Lincoln usually portray him as a civilian lawyer or political president, with a clear divide between his careers. Fenster bridges Lincoln's two professional worlds in her book, which centers around Lincoln's role as defense counsel in an 1856 murder trial in Springfield, Illinois...reveals the origins of Lincoln's political greatness." - Choice
Fenster's absorbing chronicle follows two tracks: Lincoln's reentry into the tumultuous political wars in Illinois, as Democrats, Know-Nothings, and the newly formed Republican Party vied for power; and how the death of a Springfield blacksmith evolved into a sensational murder trial. When the two tracks merge, Fenster illustrates Lincoln's emergence as a cagey politician and eloquent antislavery voice with an enhanced national reputation. This is a worthy addition to our ever-expanding knowledge concerning America's secular saint.
Fenster uses the new complete edition of Lincoln's legal papers, as well as newspapers, letters, and memoirs, to weave a spellbinding tale of alleged adultery, murder, legal practices, personal rivalries, and political ambitions in the mid-1850s-and of Lincoln's emergence as a national political figure. In doing so, she brings us as close to the social and political culture of the day as possible. Although she relies too much on memoirs to depict a Lincoln much admired as a lawyer of ready wit, unimpeachable integrity, and astute judgment, she also mines the sources deeply to discover a small-town America unsure about male-female relationships, strangers in town, and "truth." As in Brian Dirck's Lincoln the Lawyer, among other recent works, she shows how Lincoln's studying of human nature, reading, and time on the legal circuit prepared him for public life. More important, she makes the most persuasive case yet that Lincoln's argument on the need to face down Southern threats of disunion was essential to holding together the disparate elements of the rickety new Republican Party and gave Lincoln national prominence before the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Her analysis of Lincoln's "lost speech" of 1856 is simply brilliant. The verdict: a captivating and compelling book that's highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
Randall M. Miller
Through the lens of a sensational 1856 Springfield, Ill., murder case, a historian focuses on Abraham Lincoln the lawyer and politician, four years before his election to the presidency. Was blacksmith George Anderson slowly poisoned by his adulterous wife before her lover, Anderson's own impatient nephew, finally finished him off with a bloody hammer? The local citizenry certainly thought so. After declining an offer to aid the beleaguered state's attorney, Lincoln joined the defense and devised the crucial strategy that kept questions about possible adultery out of the trial, destroying the prosecution's theory about motive and ultimately freeing the defendants. This lurid case was one of many in the prairie lawyer's crowded practice, and Fenster (Race of the Century: The Heroic True Story of the 1908 New York to Paris Automobile Race, 2005, etc.) follows Lincoln and other colorful members of the Illinois Bar as they trail after the traveling Circuit Court. Simultaneously, the author charts a second, more fateful, track: the speech-making tour that resuscitated Lincoln's political career. Following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act-which nullified the Missouri Compromise and destroyed the Whig Party-and beginning with his stirring "Lost Speech" at the state's Anti-Nebraska Bloomington Convention, Lincoln traveled throughout Illinois on behalf of John C. Fremont, candidate of the nascent Republican Party, attempting to thread the needle among outright abolitionists, pro-slavery Buchanan Democrats and the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party headed by former President Millard Fillmore. He couldn't persuade the critical swing state to go for his candidate, but this tourturned him into the Party's premier Western spokesman, put him first in line to challenge popular Senator Stephen A. Douglas and ultimately led to his nomination for president. Already a successful, mature attorney whose talent and insight tipped the balance in People v. Anderson and Anderson, Lincoln began in 1856 his transformation into a master politician whose deep understanding of our founding documents and whose genius at translating their meaning for his fellow countrymen would make an even greater difference for the nation. An unexpected, odd-angle approach to Lincoln that proves marvelously insightful. First printing of 75,000