Booklist has given The First Assassin a starred review:
It’s America 1861, and the slave states are jubilant. Fort Sumter has fallen. The new president–the guy in the stovepipe hat–has slunk into Washington at night, like the craven thing they know he is. If the slaveholders assassinate this “Black Republican,” they’ll have their own country. Langston Bennett, a Charleston plantation owner, is a gentleman until he’s crossed. That’s when he sets up the murder-for-hire scheme that drives this historical thriller. The elements interconnect with watchmaker intricacy: The psycho killer, all animal cunning; the exhausted member of the White House detail who can’t convince anyone of the danger; the beautiful woman, all money and magnolia accent, who can’t be trusted; the brave, battered, escaped slave who holds the key and must get to D.C. in time. Comparisons to Day of the Jackal are inevitable, and the author plays along, naming one character Charles Calthrop. (Remember ChaCal in Forsyth’s novel?) The plot cascades along as if running on all tracks, which thriller fans won’t mind at all. History buffs, the other half of the target audience, can still learn things, like the meaning of “grave dust.” A great ride, especially for those who enjoyed Dara Horn’s All Other Nights (2009). –Don Crinklaw
Booklist is a publication of the American Library Association. It reviews about 8,000 books each year and roughly 600 receive stars. Unfortunately, there’s no direct link to the review–nothing that isn’t behind a subscriber firewall.
The reviewer nailed it on Charles Calthrop. It’s one of my favorite allusions in the book.