Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Swanson, James L. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. Scholastic Press, 2009. 198 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-439-90354-7; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-0-329-87737-8


TL;DR: Do I Recommend This? Yes


Genre: Nonfiction (history)


Part of a series? No.


Plot Summary:

Written much like a thriller, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer immerses readers in the days leading up to and immediately following the assassination of President Lincoln. Even as an adult who should remember from history class how the event turned out, I was completely absorbed and had to know what happened next. Swanson writes dramatically about Booth’s confidence, his charisma, and his Confederate sympathies as he plots the murder of the president of the United States and several important members of his administration. Action jumps from assassination to assassination attempt, leaving readers with some cliffhangers until we return to those people. The information about Booth’s hideout, trip across the river, and firestorm/shootout in the tobacco barn unfolds like the climax of an action film.


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Some of the language was a bit too dramatic, and the author takes some liberties assuming the attitudes or mindsets of different people throughout the account, but overall the book was an exciting look at this moment in American history.


Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I definitely recommend this book to young history enthusiasts or someone working on a project – this could be a “fun” read that would be of assistance during a Civil War assignment. Students looking to research Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, and the end of the Civil War will enjoy having this book on hand.


Grade Level: 5 and up (SLJ)


Awards and Starred Reviews:

Publishers Weekly starred 1/12/09

School Library Journal starred 1/1/09


Review referenced:

Owens, P. A. (2009). Chasing Lincoln’s Killer: The search for John Wilkes Booth (Review of the book Chasing Lincoln’s Killer). School Library Journal, 55(1), p. 130.



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