of Abraham Lincoln” by Stephen L. Carter (Knopf, 528 pgs., $26.95)
Imagine that Abraham Lincoln survived that infamous night in Ford’s Theatre, only to eventually meet the same fate that awaited Andrew Johnson: impeachment for alleged high crimes and misdemeanors.
That’s the set-up in Stephen Carter’s “The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln,” allowing Carter to pick up in fictional form where he left off in “The Violence of Peace” (2011), his provocative meditation on the meaning and relevance of just war theory.
It’s a great premise for a novel, potentially allowing one of Carter’s prototypically many-sided explorations of some big questions, as relevant after 2001 as they were in 1861.
But Carter doesn’t get around to plumbing this topic before his novel is hijacked by an improbable and poorly written melodrama filled with cloak-and dagger games, cracking ciphers, hunting down incriminating letters, foiling burglaries and fighting off would-be rapists and murderers.
To top it off, Carter’s plot is improbable and convoluted. The characters and plotlines are too interchangeable to invest in.