The new arrival of a woman named Mary Todd wedges a rift between Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed, but they must resolve their differences if they stand any chance of cracking one of the most harrowing murder cases they have ever faced.
In the winter of 1839, a sensational disappearance rocks Springfield, Illinois, as headlines announce a local man has accused his two brothers of murder. Not one to pass up an opportunity, Abraham Lincoln takes up the case of the accused with the assistance of his best friend Joshua Speed to search for evidence of innocence.
But just as soon as they begin, Lincoln and Speed find their friendship at grave risk of rupture as they vie for the hand of a beautiful new arrival in town: an ambitious, outspoken young woman named Mary Todd. As the trial arrives, can Lincoln and Speed put aside their differences to work together for justice once more? An innocent man’s life may be in the balance—and nothing is as it seems.
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
Mary Todd Lincoln is a fascinating historical figure with a bad reputation. As I was researching this book, I was surprised to discover just how undeserved this reputation was. The young Mary Todd—who’s depicted in this book—was a beautiful, whip-smart, and highly political young woman, the perfect match for the political town of Springfield, Illinois, where she moved in 1839. She was soon courted by Lincoln, Speed and many other eligible bachelors in town, including Lincoln’s once-and-future rival, the young Stephen Douglas. In my mind, Mary steals the show in this book. I can’t wait for readers to get to see this unknown side of her.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A House is Divided is based on the greatest unsolved murder mystery from Abraham Lincoln’s actual law practice. Writing about the actual case several years after the fact, Lincoln said, “It may well be doubted whether a stranger affair ever really occurred.” At the same time, Lincoln noted, “It is readily conceived that a writer of novels could bring [the] story to a more perfect climax.” That’s the challenge I tried to answer in writing this book, by solving Lincoln’s unsolved case.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
Historical fiction transports us off the page and into history. My Lincoln & Speed series immerses the reader in the life and times of the young Abraham Lincoln as he was first making his name as a frontier trial lawyer fighting for justice. The stories are told by Joshua Speed, a well-born Southerner who was Lincoln’s real-life roommate and best friend. We follow Lincoln & Speed’s adventures, seeing how this friendship between two very different men molded the young Lincoln. And the reader gets to try to solve murder mysteries based on Lincoln’s actual law cases at the same time.
About Jonathan F. Putnam:
JONATHAN F. PUTNAM is a writer and attorney. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, he is a nationally renowned trial lawyer and recognized Lincoln scholar. He currently lives with his family in London, England.