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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 16 June 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First and foremost "The First Assassin" is an excellent read. My concern before I got it was that I knew very little about this era and wondered if the author would either overload with historical background or skip over it and leave me baffled. On the contrary, the situation and landscape at the time is expertly described without ever losing its fluidity.

The story takes you back to the start of the Lincoln administration and the deep seeded divides that exist throughout the dwindling United States. The country is at the point of civil war, many blame Lincoln and thus his safety is put at risk. Our hero is tasked with protecting the new president and trying to keep together his security despite continuous deserters from his ranks.

As the story develops you find out more about the differences the two sides have and how people's beliefs and loyalties make it very difficult to know who to trust. To top it all off the president and senior officials don't seem to think the threat to the president is serious at all. The rollercoaster ride encompasses everyone at the time, from the black slaves of the deep south to the upper class socialites in Washington and everyone in between, giving rise to heroes in the most unlikely of places.

My one criticism would be the ease at which some things are achieved. Without ruining the plot, the author could have expanded a little on how situations come to fruition or at least give some indication that it wasn't quite as simple as is made out. This is however a minor gripe and only one you realise when you finish the book. I would love to read a sequel, if he ever decides to do one!
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Writing historical fiction is a difficult discipline. One must inject enough historical verisimilitude to persuade the average reader, and enough to keep at bay the expert. One must quickly take the modern reader into a "reality" that they can comprehend yet one that has sufficient key differences to engage their sensibilities. The Flashman books are past masters at establishing plot, character and context is short order; "The First Assassin" follows skilfully in this noble tradition. Washington then is clearly different from Washington now, but "sleuthing" remains the same. The context is the opening weeks of the Presidency of Abe Lincoln. The author works hard not only to give the "good" characters a believable hinterland but does the same for the "villains". He may not agree with them, but they are multi-dimensional. The comparison with "The Day Of The Jackal" is a clear one, and it is a tribute to the excellent pace of "The First Assassin". The various parties assemble some distance apart, they start to approach, we see the practical sides of the mission of both assassin and Presidential security, the tracks seem to be about to collide but do not yet, dramatic changes alter things for both sides; this is a natural film script replete with a plot that refuses to run smoothly but that drives towards an inevitable end.

What a pity so good a villain had to go.
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VINE VOICEon 3 June 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm in total agreement with Mr Maynard's review. I wanted to enjoy this book - a would-be assassination of Abraham Lincoln which we are told is fictitious and clearly doesn't involve a guy called Booth or a trip to the theatre - but as it wore on [slowly, slowly] my interest in it palled. Yes, it's good on the social and political atmosphere of 1862 Washington at the eve of the Civil War but as to 'thriller', I'm afraid it's not there. Decent writing style but, oh dear, it seriously lacks pace and convincing characterisation. And comparisons with Forsyth's epic novel are more than a bit ambitious, so don't expect too much. Amazon's definition of 3 stars - 'It's OK' just about sums it up.
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VINE VOICEon 26 June 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Actually no, but the way that the author was written this excellent book the reader would not know. The depth of detail and the characters bring this cataclysmic period in Americans history. Linclon is a hero-figure to many modern Americans but that was not the case in the year leading up the Civil War, many Northeners and Southerners felt that he was leading the US into war. Was the fate of slaves worth rending the country and spilling blood?

The story is compelling, a Southerner had hired a foreign assassin to kill Lincoln. Simple? Well not really, even though Lincoln was being guarded by the Treasury Department one Union officer is convinced that the Presidents life is in danger. He has to convince his superiors that that is the case. Lincoln himself is not helping as he does not want to be smothered, feeling that in this time of crisis the people need to see their President. The officer has little time, few operatives and is surrounded by the furious preparations for the coming conflict. Time is running out for the Union and the President

The perspective in the book shifts from the assassin to his pursuer from the North to the South and this works well. Two slight quibbles I have is the inclusion of the 'plucky slave' who risks all to get to the North. Is is really believable that a slave women would gain access to the White House and the President?

Another quibble is that in those days there was no dedicated Secret Serivce to protect the President, instead Lincoln was protected by detectives from Pinkerton's agency including Pinkerton himself, this is not mentioned by the author.

Ignoring these quibbles I like this book, I finished it in two nights and will read it again.

Lincoln was indeed assassinated, on April the 15th 1865 at Ford's Theatre, but I would not be surprised if there were numerous plots to kill him, this book created a highly feasable plot which could have been true.
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on 20 September 2013
Overall, I enjoyed this book and considered it to be a good buy. I particularly liked the historical setting, being fairly unusually set in Washington during the late 19th century and the depth of description about that city speaks of a genuine knowledge, gained from loving research, on the part of Mr Miller. Indeed, the city is, itself, almost as much of a character as the people depicted within it.

The basic story premise is sound but I did have a few niggles. One reviewer has likened it to 'Day of the Jackal' but that seems a bit too far to me. Where the Jackal builds up to a point where the reader thinks "Ah, that's why he did that five chapters ago", The First Assassin seems to peter out. The early parts involving the assassin convince that he is a highly intelligent, resourceful and professional killer, with a success rate built on immaculate planning and preparation. So when, later in the book, he becomes entirely reactive to events, with no clear idea of how he is to achieve his aim, it feels like a let down. Ultimately, the author falls back upon an act of sheer chance to give the assassin an opportunity and this feels as though Mr Miller was trying to create a story line as he went along and simply ran out of ideas. Similarly, there are just too few characters here, causing the main parties to just 'bump into each other' in Washington as though it were a rural village.

Although these deficiencies were problematic, I still enjoyed the book for what it was; a really good first attempt by a new author in this field and the obvious depth of historical knowledge displayed lifts this book above many others in the genre. In particular, I very much liked learning more about the practicality and politics of slavery and secession within the States during this period of history. Not brilliant but still a good read.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In his first novel John J Miller has upped the stakes for all historical thrillers to come for the future. Comparisons have already been made with that brilliant thriller, The Day Of The Jackal, and if you read this you will soon see why.

It is 1861 and Abraham Lincoln is President of the United States, but the Southern States have started seceeding. With the plans to stop slavery expanding, and the fears that this would lead to racial equality, plantation owners are in fear of their livelihoods. With this in mind, our story starts. Wanting Lincoln assassinated, a Plantation owner finds himself approached by a mysterious man who is willing to take on the job. Calling himself Mazorca (Spanish for an ear of corn), this man obviously knows his trade.

In Washington, Colonel Rook has been ordered to curtail his surveillance operations for protecting the President, and to concentrate on building the defences for the city. Ignoring orders though, Rook has already foiled at least one probable attempt on the President, and wants to continue doing so. But with the ruthless Mazorca on his way to Washington, will Rook even find out about this particular plot?

At the same time a young female slave is on the run, teying to make her way to Lincoln and warn him of the plot. With loads of suspense and action there is a lot in this book as the main characters play cat and mouse with each other. John J Miller has seamlessly blended fact with fiction to create something that is highly believable and will keep you hooked.
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on 4 April 2014
I quite enjoyed reading this book a tale loosly baste on real events about the protection of Ab Lincoln in Washington.
It reminded me of the Bernard Cornwall series Copperhead/The Bloody ground/Battle flag/Rebel Although Bernard deals with the Confederats side of events John Miller deals with the Abolitionised side of the cival war.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was left with mixed feelings on this one. Sometimes very exciting and engaging but, at other times, rather frustrating and disappointing. Title certainly ambiguous. However, this book shows tremendous insight into what life must have been like in 1861 America just before civil war broke out. My lasting though on completion of the book was what a horrible existence it must have been being a slave then.
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on 18 December 2013
I did finish it but it was a struggle. Author seemed to use many modern words and technologies. Whole plot relies on a photographer taking a close up image of a possible assassin from a good distance using a 19th century plate camera!
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on 27 December 2011
the first assassin appeared to be an interesting subject treated in an interesting way. however, having bought it I was disappointed to find it quite tedious to read. It could do with a greater economy of words and some faster paced action. The setting and themes are highly promising but the overall impression was slow and turgid. At least I have learned not to buy without checking a sample unless the author is already well known to me ! Glad to note that others HAVE liked it as it shows the writer did not waste his time, ink and effort !
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