Book Review: Bloody Crimes – James Swanson

Title: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse
Author: James Swanson
ISBN: 9780061988479
Pages: 480
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Publisher: HarperAudio
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Bloody Crimes takes the reader through the last days of the Civil War, beginning just a few days before Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox.  Swanson chronicles the events leading up to Lincoln’s assassination, as well as its aftermath.  He juxtaposes that story alongside the tale of the flight of the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis,.

Review:

I have a confession:  I’m not all that interested in American history (with the huge exception of the space program, of course).  For some reason, it has just never quite captured my imagination, even though I love to learn.  However, when I saw Bloody Crimes, I was immediately intrigued.  I actually don’t know much about the end of the Civil War, and with a subtitle like that, it definitely caught my attention.  I decided to give the book a chance on audio, and wow.  I must say it has made me rethink my disinterest in American history.

Bloody Crimes takes two different stories and puts them together, painting a chaotic and complicated picture of the time period.  While Lincoln and Washington, DC were celebrating the end of the Civil War, Jefferson Davis was preparing to leave Richmond, not knowing where he could go or what might happen to him if Union soldiers caught up with him.  It makes for an extremely interesting story, especially because James Swanson takes so much care with the history.

I cannot even begin to describe how much I learned from this audiobook.  Because it’s James Swanson, I knew that I didn’t have to doubt the accuracy of what I was hearing.  As a result, I could concentrate on marveling how interesting the entire thing was.  There were times when the incredibly detailed descriptions of Lincoln’s death train became tedious, but then Swanson would switch back to Jefferson Davis’ flight and re-engage the reader.  Since this is history, it had the potential to be so dry, yet I was riveted by this listen.

I chose to listen to Bloody Crimes in audio, and I’m so glad for that decision.  This was an amazing listen.  It is narrated by Richard Thomas, and he did an excellent job.  His voice has the gravitas required to narrate the death of a president, while also constantly engaging the reader.  The audio production is unabridged and runs almost 13 hours.

I feel like I haven’t said anything in this review, yet I’m not sure what else to say.  Even if the Civil War isn’t your thing, if you are the least bit interested in history, do yourself a favor and pick up this book.  Before it was even finished, I picked up a copy of Swanson’s previous book Manhunt, about the hunt for John Wilkes Booth.  That’s how good it was.  You won’t regret reading or listening to this book; it’s well-written, fascinating, and shows how interesting history can be.

Affiliate Links:

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Comments

  1. I am interested in American history, and in reading more nonfiction in the upcoming year. After your glowing review, I’ll keep this book in mind.

  2. I am interested in American history, and in reading more nonfiction in the upcoming year. After your glowing review, I’ll keep this book in mind.

  3. I got the chance to meet Swanson at SIBA this year, and he was such an erudite and amiable man. We talked a little about the future of publishing in the digital age, and all about his book as well. This is one that I am really excited about reading and I am really glad to hear that it kept you so intrigued! Fabulous review!

  4. I got the chance to meet Swanson at SIBA this year, and he was such an erudite and amiable man. We talked a little about the future of publishing in the digital age, and all about his book as well. This is one that I am really excited about reading and I am really glad to hear that it kept you so intrigued! Fabulous review!

  5. My dad and I heard James Swanson speak at the National Book Festival in 2009 and he was very, very interesting! Despite the fact that I haven’t been reading much non-fiction lately, I’m a huge history buff and this sounds like one I would enjoy… especially on audio!

  6. My dad and I heard James Swanson speak at the National Book Festival in 2009 and he was very, very interesting! Despite the fact that I haven’t been reading much non-fiction lately, I’m a huge history buff and this sounds like one I would enjoy… especially on audio!

  7. I would never have thought I’d be interested in this book until Heather and I had breakfast with Swanson at SIBA. He is fascinating and when he spoke about the book, he definitely captured my attention.

  8. I would never have thought I’d be interested in this book until Heather and I had breakfast with Swanson at SIBA. He is fascinating and when he spoke about the book, he definitely captured my attention.

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