by Cathryn Conroy (Gaithersburg, Maryland): Even though you probably know at least the basic facts about the beginning, the middle, and the end of this story about the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in cold blood during a play at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865, you may not know the details. The gory, gruesome, intriguing details.

And it is in these prodigiously researched details culled from primary source materials that author James L. Swanson weaves a two-pronged tale of intrigue and betrayal that is as riveting as a well-written thriller or murder mystery.

Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth was a famous stage actor, and many people nationwide knew well his handsome face. How did he manage to elude authorities for so long—from April 14 to April 26, 1865—with only a horse while suffering excruciating pain from a broken leg? This is the enthralling story, told from his point of view as the hunted prey, but also from that of the often hapless hunters.

This book not only details the fascinating, frustratingly slow, and often fruitless search for Booth and his accomplices, but also gives an hour-by-hour account of the assassination and Lincoln’s activities that day. The details are so vivid—the sights, the scents, the sounds—that I felt as if I were there on the scene, from the ill-fated box in Ford’s Theater to the wilds of Maryland as Booth valiantly tried to escape. The writing and the research are truly exceptional.

Find out: • The detailed planning of Lincoln’s murder, including the conspirators’ plot to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward and Vice President Andrew Johnson at the exact same time Lincoln was killed.

• How Booth viewed the entire event as a perverse kind of Shakespearean drama that he scripted and performed as the leading man.

• How Booth escaped wearing dress clothing and carrying no supplies while galloping through the streets of Washington, D.C. on a skittish horse and was never stopped.

• How Booth broke his leg, who fixed it, and how much pain he suffered.

• Where Booth and his accomplice, David Herold, hid for days on end and who tended to them. For years, this was a mystery—a lost week. Now we know what happened and where, and it’s an astonishing story.

• How Booth’s escape both incensed and thrilled the country, as well as the horrifying penalty for everyday citizens who said anything against Lincoln after his death.

• They may not have been able to find Booth and Herold for 12 days, but authorities rounded up, arrested, and threw into prison more than one hundred suspects, including Booth’s brother Junius and his brother-in-law John Sleeper Clarke, as well as a strange Portuguese sea captain, Confederate sympathizers and agents, and anyone else who expressed disloyal sentiments.

• The surprising way Booth was finally found after 12 long days and the bizarre details of his death.

Bonus: After you read this book, treat yourself to the historical novel “Booth,” by Karen Joy Fowler that brilliantly and creatively explores the personal life story of John Wilkes Booth.