Swanson illuminates the characters of his story -- Booth and his co-conspirators, Stanton and his minions, Dr. Samuel Mudd and less well remembered supporting players -- with a wealth of personal detail usually found in fiction. He binds them to his narrative, which gallops along at the pace of a page-turning thriller. And even at the end, when the story barrels toward its well-known climax, the author ratchets up the tension of the final showdown in a Virginia tobacco barn.
Our nonfiction vocabularies are so impoversihed, we have to borrow terms and allusions from stage and literature to convey what is going on in a work of history. And yet, these terms convey exactly what is going on ... with the author.