The Shut Mouth Society by James D. Best.
Wheatmark: Tucson, AZ, 2008.

I first picked out this book, because it has a cool title and Lincoln on the front cover. I expected it to be historical fiction and maybe a little dry. What it is, instead, is a thriller/detective story centered around preinaugural papers of President Abraham Lincoln. The author has done an excellent job of building the story. I wanted to know more about the secret societies (there is a second with an inconspicuous name), more about the Sherman family (is there some truth to the genealogy or totally fabricated), and more about the resolution. The ending is abrupt and, to me, not very satisfying. It is a good, quick read with some exciting historical teasers.

Commander Greg Evarts of the Santa Barbara Police Department is drawn into a strange cat and mouse game by his friend and collector of Lincoln documents. Professor Patricia Balwdin, an expert on Lincoln documents, is similarly recruited. They have no idea why until after Evarts's friend, Abraham Douglass, is murdered. It appears that anyone with knowledge of certain papers is being bumped off. The unknown enemy has the power to frame Evarts and demolish his career. Evarts and Baldwin are on the run, trying to find out any information that can be used as leverage. Staying ahead of the enemy proves difficult, and once they discover the possible source of the attacks, they must either take an offensive tack or be chased indefinitely.

Professor Baldwin knows more than she lets on and may not be trustworthy. Evarts has family connections of which he was unaware. The conspiracy is far reaching and more complex than just a coverup of the Lincoln documents. The document they were shown gives no indication of the conspiracy or why they are being hunted. They need to learn what the Shut Mouth Society protects before they can know whose side they are on.

There is some discussion about Lincoln - his yokel facade and other aspects of his image, his intentions concerning the Civil War and slavery, and his mastery of communication and politics. It takes the form of a debate between Baldwin and Douglass, with Baldwin explaining their differences, since Douglass is dead by that point. There is also an illusion to plundering of the South after the war. The book suggests that some of that plundering may have been done by wealthy Southerners, to keep it out of the hands of Northerners, perhaps, or to retain their wealth and power. A Mexican connection is added. I haven't heard this take on the plundering or reinvestment before, but it makes sense.

related-detective stories, mysteries, Abraham Lincoln, historical documents, conspiracy theories, American Civil War, Reconstruction, drug trade, politics and power
RL=YA-adult, adult book

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