Books: Blending Fantasy with Fact

Tracking Lincoln's murderer, Edward's jewels and other prey

Historical thrillers are the meatiest of all mysteries. They are connected to reality like funny bone to shoulder bone, insidiously subverting the official versions of history. Gore Vidal's Burr, for instance, and—more inventively—Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution plausibly :combine wit, suspense, speculation and scholarship. Novels like these not only induce insomnia but are also hallucinogenic, tingeing with fantasy the reader's remembrance of known fact.

For example: since Lincoln's assassination 115 years ago, scores of books have been written about the conspiracy and the characters surrounding...

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