The America Civil War is over, slavery has been (mostly) abolished, and General Ulysses S Grant is touring the country as part of his run for President of the Union. At a gala function in Cincinnati, Grant, while exploring the venue, sees an apparition of a black man, soaking wet. When the apparition disappears into thin air, Grant is faced with the possibility of a real ghost asking him to investigate its own murder.
Looking into the drowning of a former slave, Grant finds himself face to face with a second body. While it appears to be suicide, Grant and his reporter associate are not convinced. But despite the civil war being over, the police are still reluctant to investigate the death of black people. So Grant finds his presidential ambitions side-tracked by a search for a ruthless killer.
It seemed like a good idea. To commemorate the US election with a mystery set during a Presidential campaign. And then, goodness only knows why, my enthusiasm dried up when the result was announced. And I wasn’t really in the mood for doing much in the way of reading.
But I’m lucky – not just because I don’t live in the US. I’m a teacher and five days a week, I’m surrounded by the next generation of people who can shape the world. I’m always impressed by my students, past and present, but sometimes it takes a shock like this to remind me of their potential. I know it’s a cliché to say that it’s always darkest before the dawn, but I’m lucky that every weekday, I can see evidence that this may well be true.
Anyway, back to the book. It’s a relatively quick read, if you don’t get distracted halfway through, with a healthy dose of history. It’s the best sort of history for me, as I know virtually nothing about the Civil War – we tend to skip the 19th Century in our schools, apart from a quick mention of the Spinning Jenny.
As a whodunit, it buzzes along nicely, although the crucial information for having a chance of solving it comes along quite late. Oh, there’s a locked room as well, fairly straightforward but with a nice idea that I don’t recall seeing before. Grant is a personable lead and while he has a tendency to slip into anecdotes about recent history, it certainly proved informative for this reader.
This is the third book from Marks featuring Ulysses Grant (there’s a book of short stories as well) and while this isn’t as bonkers as The Ambush Of My Name or as traditional a mystery as A Good Soldier, it’s still an enjoyable read and is Recommended.