My new historical mystery, Perish from the Earth, is being published by Crooked Lane Books in July. Perish is the second book in my Lincoln & Speed Mystery series, which features the young Abraham Lincoln and his real-life best friend Joshua Speed as a kind of Holmes and Watson on the American frontier. The series is set in the late 1830s when Lincoln (not yet married to Mary Todd) and Speed shared a room—and, indeed, a bed—in Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln was a newly admitted member of the bar, while Speed ran a general store.
My debut novel, These Honored Dead (2016), is set largely in Springfield. I knew that for my second book, I wanted to take Lincoln and Speed on the road. As it happens, in his real-life legal practice, Lincoln often “rode the circuit.” Since many towns in Illinois were too small at the time to have their own lawyers—to say nothing of a judge or courthouse—twice a year, a group consisting of Lincoln, other lawyers from Springfield, and a judge would set off together in a large horse-drawn carriage. They would spend a month riding from town to town, trying cases and resolving disputes at each stop along the way.
So in planning the novel that would become Perish, I started looking into murder mysteries Lincoln could have encountered as he rode the circuit around Illinois. And I stumbled upon a spectacular real-life murder, indeed: one of the most infamous and consequential murders of the 19th century, although it is little remembered today.
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