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Editor reviews

Why we think it's Essential: If only all history lessons were taught by Richard Thomas, who elevates James L. Swanson's impeccably researched account of capturing John Wilkes Booth with this masterful performance. Thomas' pacing and nuanced narration make Manhunt seem more like a gripping thriller than a history tome. — Diana Dapito

Summary

The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history, the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild 12-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness.

At the very center of this story is John Wilkes Booth, America's notorious villain. A Confederate sympathizer and a member of a celebrated acting family, Booth threw away his fame and wealth for a chance to avenge the South's defeat. For almost two weeks, he confounded the manhunters, slipping away from their every move and denying them the justice they sought.

Based on rare archival materials, obscure trial transcripts, and Lincoln's own blood relics, Manhunt is a fully documented work, but it is also a fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal. A gripping hour-by-hour account told through the eyes of the hunted and the hunters, this is history as you've never read it before.

©2006 James L. Swanson (P)2006 HarperCollinsPublishers

Critic reviews

"Pure narrative pleasure, sure to satisfy the casual reader and Civil War aficionado alike." ( Publishers Weekly)
"Swanson's synthesis of the sources is bound to be a cover-to-cover reading hit with history lovers." ( Booklist)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Craig
  • Scotland
  • 02-05-17

Amazing

Where does Manhunt rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is up with the best of them.

Any additional comments?

This is so interesting. It is very detailed and well narrated.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • F. Elizabeth Hauser
  • 14-12-08

Fascinating!


This was a natural after reading The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage. The story of the plotting of Lincoln's assassination, from the point of the assassin, and the ensuing account of his escape, 12 days on the lam, and eventual capture and death are told so well that it keeps the listener on the edge of his seat. The unwitting errors in navigation that led to Booth's capture make the reader realize just what a fluke it was that Booth was brought to justice, rather than disappearing into the deep South where he might have been hailed as a hero, rather than the cold-blooded killer that he was. On the flip side, the listener gains insight into the fact that Booth believed he was a patriot to a righteous cause, that of the lifestyle embraced by the South, and that his actions were justified. This is a "must listen" for any reader who enjoys American history or biography.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Jeff G.
  • 20-10-08

Somewhat over the top

I hesitated before ordering because I generally don't like ABRIDGED works, but there was plenty here.

The story was an amazing part of history in ultimate detail, and I was left feeling that the author included every bit of his research in the book. The detail was so thorough that I wondered what an unabridged version could have added. I'm not saying this was a good thing... the drama added to the depth of detail resulted in a drawn-out narration full of (supposed) exclamation marks. The description of Booth actually pulling the trigger of the gun during the assassination was longer than this review.

The read by Richard Thomas was only fair. While I have always been impressed by Mr. Thomas' acting credentials, his read was pretty much "John Boy" all the way through, without much variation for the various characters quoted.

The two star rating is for the fascinating story told here -- despite the cumbersome writing and laconic narration, it was interesting to listen to all the facts that were unknown to most before the publication of Manhunt.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Scott
  • 06-12-13

Riveting

What did you love best about Manhunt?

Historical nonfiction storytelling at its best. Rich in details and although most people are familiar with the events, the author manages to imbue a level of suspense throughout. The righteous fury of the pursuers and hopeless desperation of the conspirators add a compelling human element. Richard Thomas'' narration is superb.

Which scene was your favorite?

The confrontation with Booth at the climax and it's aftermath gives a real sense of time and place and conveys the perspectives of each of the main participants - satisfying and haunting at the same time.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

While a nation grieved, an army sought justice...

Any additional comments?

Will appeal to readers of suspense as well as history. Don't miss it!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • ellen
  • 15-10-11

terrific

What made the experience of listening to Manhunt the most enjoyable?

a wonderful history of the jwb manhunt. I was fascinated by the details and all that was going on during these 12 days. what an great education and delightful book to listen to

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Charles Atkinson
  • 03-01-11

Good Content, But That's All

I did not like the narrator or the narrative. I did find the content accurate and educational.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jeff
  • 11-05-12

A 5 STAR- GREAT LISTEN !!

There have been several books on the Lincoln assassination written since this one, but I have no need or want of them because this book is written so superbly that no questions remain.

Swanson has done his research and has Very skillfully crafted not just a book of thoroughness but one of very high readability. MANHUNT is a facinating, exciting and rewarding read, Narrated well Highly Recommended !!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Douglas Lobdell Jr.
  • 13-10-08

Well researched; reads like great fiction

Swanson has done a masterful job of research, with every bit of this narrative taken from newspapers, diaries, letters, court transcripts, and other contemporary accounts of the actual manhunt. This story will keep you enthralled throughout; it's both superb storytelling and excellent history that will appeal to a broad audience. Highly recommended!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Davis
  • 12-10-08

Gripping History.

This is a fascinating, well told story, with all kinds of intruiging details that most history books ignore. The drama is so well told that it draws you in, even though you know the ending. Richard Thomas does a stellar job narrating.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mike From Mesa
  • 21-07-08

At last some answers!

Like the rest of us I first learned of the Lincoln assassination when I was in grade school. Ever since that time I thought about the "whys" and "hows". How did Booth escape? Why was Dr Mudd arrested for only setting a visitor's ankle? Why was Mary Surratt hanged for running a boarding house? When I asked these questions of the teachers I was told about the excitement of the times and the lack of justice.

After reading this book I found out that much of what I was told was wrong. There was a reason Dr Mudd was arrested. There was a reason Mary Surratt was hung. This book is very well written, well researched, mostly well read and extremely informative. My only real complaint had to do with the way the reader made so many parts sound as though they ended in exclamation points. Other than that I thought it was great and would recommend it to anyone with questions about the Lincoln assassination.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lowell
  • 07-02-07

Manhunt

A thriller right from the start. The author brings you back to the 1860's and his descriptive style of writing lets you envision everything as if you were there. A great read. I couldn't put it down. If you are a history buff and like a good mystery, you will enjoy this one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful