The assassination of Abraham Lincoln set off a hysterical burst of international conspiracy theories, with all eyes turning first to Canada—once a hotbed of Confederate plots—and then, as evidence mounted, to the Catholic Church and Rome. Now from bestselling author Max Byrd comes a long forgotten true story: a confidential mission to track down and capture any Europeans (and fugitive Confederates) who may have aided John Wilkes Booth.
Drawn from State Department archives and personal letters and diaries, The Sixth Conspirator recounts the dramatic journey of George H. Sharpe, General Ulysses S. Grant’s real-life spymaster, to three European capitals. Three people travel with him—calculating banker Daniel Keach, Sharpe’s Civil War protegé Quintus Oakes, and former Pinkerton agent Maggie Lawton. One step ahead of them is a mysterious Confederate courier, Sarah Slater, known during the war as “the Veiled Lady,” who may or may not have been Booth’s lover. Behind Sharpe’s team, breathing grimly over their shoulders, are Secretary of State William Seward, brutally mutilated by the knife of one of Booth’s henchmen, and the perversely vengeful, guilt-ridden Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Along the way Byrd creates a panorama of wonderfully-realized characters, great and small, fictional and real. In deeply researched, fascinating historical detail, he carries us back to another reality—the far away mid-nineteenth century world from which our America slowly emerged.
Max Byrd is the author of bestselling historical novels about Ulysses Grant, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson, and is the winner of the Shamus Award for his mystery novel California Thriller. Other widely reviewed novels include Shooting the Sun and The Paris Deadline. Byrd’s earlier novels, The Wall Street Journal says, “vaulted him into the first rank of American historical novelists.
The Wall Street Journal — Mysteries: Chasing ‘The Veiled Lady’ Across the Globe
An eclectic quartet of seasoned intelligence agents pursue the last uncaptured culprit in the Lincoln assassination.
—Tom Nolan, Aug. 30, 2019 11:18 am ET
‘The Sixth Conspirator’ (Permuted Press, 359 pages, $26), Max Byrd ’s sophisticated historical novel of post-Civil War intrigue, takes place in 1867 and journeys from “Washington City” to London, Rome, Paris and back. Four people who collaborated with John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln have already been hanged; a fifth plotter has at last been apprehended in Egypt. But government officials suspect that yet another conspirator is still at large. An eclectic quartet of seasoned intelligence agents is commissioned to go overseas and apprehend the elusive culprit.
Leading the group is Gen. George H. Sharpe : “the mildest-mannered little man that ever cut a throat,” according to one of the team’s members. Other real-life figures besides Sharpe also appear in this witty and acidulous work, including Secretary of State William Seward, feeling vengeful after surviving his own attempted assassination, and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who is locked in bitter dispute with the current president, Andrew Johnson.
The book’s reluctant protagonist is Quintus Oakes, an ex-Army man traveling with Sharpe. Oakes is conflicted about the “sixth conspirator” that Sharpe and company are chasing: Sarah Slater, a former Confederate courier known as “the Veiled Lady,” with whom Oakes had a long-ago romance (and for whom he still carries a torch). Oakes is the only pursuer who can identify Slater, who has taken care never to be photographed. What will happen when Oakes catches up to her? Thanks to Mr. Byrd’s elegant storytelling, the answer seems a matter of life and death.