Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Cosgrove Report by G.J.A. O’Toole


We have a mighty intriguing volume here, consider the full title.

The Cosgrove Report: Being the Private Inquiry of a Pinkerton Detective into the Death of President Lincoln.

The conceit of the premise is a recently discovered memoir ala the technique of most recent Sherlock Holmes pastiches that reveals the exploits and investigations of Pinkerton Detective Nicholas Cosgrove.

Here’s the trick of the premise. The year is 1868. Our Pinkerton agent is tasked with hunting down one John Wilkes Booth.

Those familiar with history are more than aware that Booth died by gunfire after a long manhunt for having assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

History tells us Booth has been dead for two years before our tale commences.

Along the way we learn much about the assassination, the dealings of numerous co-conspirators involved in the wider plot—all of which is true, by the way, and, for the sake of the novel [this is not a spoiler] John Wilkes Booth did not die in that barn.

If one considers only that information, the novel is good rousing speculative fun.

But, if one were to also consider just who the author is, the story becomes all the more intriguing.

G.J.A. O’Toole was a former employee of the C.I.A., a Pulitzer Prize nominee and the author of Encyclopedia of American Intelligence and EspionageHonorable Treachery, a history of American intelligence.

The man knows his history and he knows the sub rosa machinations behind the scenes of history.

With the author’s bona fides before us one can’t help but wonder while reading, “How much of this is true? How much is invention?” And maybe, just maybe, “Is fiction this author’s way of safely telling a tale?”

Whether read as rousing tale or as eyebrow arching food for thought, I enjoyed the hell out of this one.

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