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BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Jim Lehrer's Tension City.
On a ridge overlooking Burnside Bridge—the focus of the Battle of Antietam—souvenir hunters find the unmarked grave of an unknown Union officer.
Don Spaniel, an archeologist in the National Park Service, is called in to examine the remains. He soon discovers that the officer was murdered and that his identification disk could not possibly belong to him, since its rightful owner is buried elsewhere. So who was this officer? Where did he come from? And why was he killed?
Spaniel’ s obsessive investigation leads not only to his reliving the horrible carnage that occurred at Burnside Bridge over a century before, but to the true identity of the Union officer and the reason why another body resides in his grave in a small New England town.
In a swift narrative deftly combining the past with the present, Jim Lehrer has created an engrossing story that will appeal to a wide variety of readers.
In his 13th novel, PBS NewsHour anchor Lehrer delivers a clever forensic mystery. This effort does not quite pack the emotional and dramatic wallop of his last book, The Special Prisoner, but it does raise powerful questions about the ethics of whitewashing historical truths. Dr. Don Spaniel is an archeologist with the National Park Service. He is puzzled by an unusual grave discovered at the Civil War battlefield in Antietam,, Md., site of the single bloodiest day of fighting in America's military history. The skeletal remains of a Union officer reveal that the victim had been executed. While trying to identify the dead officer, Spaniel learns that the name on his I.D. tag is that of a man buried as a local hero back in his Connecticut hometown after the war. Who, then, is this unfortunate soul, and why was he wearing another man's identity tag? And why was he murdered? As Spaniel uses sophisticated, high-tech forensic equipment and procedures in his investigation, a 100-year-old written confession surfaces in an Iowa historical archive, and Spaniel suddenly realizes the magnitude of the mystery. What he doesn't grasp, however, is that the descendants of the Civil War veterans are just as passionate about honor today as their great-great-grandfathers were in 1862. Spaniel's professional fervor, and his ultimate decision about whether to disclose the truth, could have unintended, tragic results. Lehrer's style is fluid and fast moving; he skillfully develops suspense surrounding a compelling ethical dilemma.