"A smashing idea…by changing a single fact, Solomon offers a deeply imagined and entirely plausible account of the Lincoln White House at its saddest. He brings to life Washington City of 1862—its food, its morals, its swamps, its lingo—with vividly drawn characters, fully rendered relationships, and a twisty plot that reveals a family in crisis. You won't guess whodunit until the final, suspenseful page." — Doris Kearns Goodwin
"The Murder of Willie Lincoln is the best kind of historical mystery—well-plotted, beautifully researched, and gripping to the final page." — Daniel Stashower, author of The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War
"Burt Solomon pulls off the extraordinary: he vividly conjures Washington City of the winter of 1862—its smells and sights and sounds—while unspooling a suspenseful whodunit that keeps the reader compulsively turning pages late into the night. John Hay, Lincoln's lusty young secretary-turned-detective, is—as inhabited by Solomon—a winning and psychologically complex character. You can read this riveting novel purely for the fascination of its painstakingly researched historical evocations, or purely for the suspense of the murder mystery—or, as I did, for the richly intertwined, deep pleasures of both." — Scott Stossel, editor, The Atlantic magazine"
"The pace and characterizations in this mystery are superb. The historic backdrop is expertly painted, and everyone’s talk rings true: slave, free, secesh, Lincoln, even lascivious Kate Chase. But do not expect the expected ending." — James M. Cornelius, Curator, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, Springfield, Ill.
“History is often a mystery. In The Murder of Willie Lincoln, Burt Solomon has shaped one of the most gripping chapters in our nation’s narrative into a classic whodunit—vivid, captivating, and, dare I say, seductively plausible. In young John Hay, we have a bright and feisty sleuth, and as we follow him on the trail of the suspected murderer of the President’s son, we are afforded a tour of the Lincoln White House and wartime Washington that is as dark as it is enlightening.” — John Taliaferro, author of All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt
Washington City, 1862: The United States lies in tatters, and the Civil War seems without end, despite Abraham Lincoln’s determination to keep his beloved country united. But Lincoln's soul is tested when tragedy strikes the White House: Willie, Lincoln's eleven-year-old son, the shining light in the president's life, dies—of typhoid fever, the doctors say.
Then a message arrives, suggesting that murder, not illness, caused Willie's death. Lincoln asks John Hay, his trusted aide, to investigate. Hay is an adventurous, irreverent, skeptical, even cynical young man—a boxer and a poet, who is as close to Lincoln as a son.
The more Hay unearths, the more daunting his task seems. Suspicions of a secessionist conspiracy within the Executive Mansion itself. The threat to Lincoln's surviving sons. An extortion attempt against the president's hellcat of a wife. As the war rages on, Hay chases the truth of Willie's murder through the loftiest and lowest corners of Washington City. As he closes in, he discovers just how far Lincoln’s enemies will go to keep him silent.
Photo credit: Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress
"An original plot, plausible characterizations of historical figures, and solid prose combine to make this historical fiction debut, from a contributing editor for the Atlantic, a winner … [with] a surprising final reveal. Solomon’s storytelling abilities will make fans of the genre hope for a John Hay sequel." Publishers Weekly
"[T]his first novel by editor and writer Solomon teems with big personalities and secret motives moiling about Civil War–era Washington. … [T]he characters here come to life—each one flawed, with mixed but understandable motives." Booklist
"Solomon depicts the scores of people around Lincoln with vigor and authority ... [a] rich historical offering.” Kirkus Reviews
© Burt Solomon | Contact