The novel begins with the premise that Lincoln survives his assassination attempt while Johnson dies. That’s the opposite of how it went (actually Johnson was never even attacked but his assassination was plotted). It’s a few years later now and the radical Republicans of the House and Senate have impeached Lincoln on several accounts, but mostly under the idea that whatever extra-legal wartime powers he took on to win the Civil War he kept up after and bypassed congress. The novel focuses primarily on Lincoln’s legal team which includes two veteran trial and constitutional lawyers, a young law students, and a young Black woman who is hired as a “clerk” in the secretarial sense, while having having aspirations in the legal sense. In addition, the novel also deals with a conspiracy behind the conspiracy element that especially the two law clerks focus on.
It’s a well, pretty solid legal thriller over all. Because of the alternative history elements, it’s more riveting that it might otherwise be. Lincoln is a character, but not a protagonist, so that also helps. It’s not “Old Custer” or anything like that. It’s limited by its form, but Carter is a solid writer, but a very experienced legal expert, which makes the courtroom stuff by far the most interesting.