In excruciating detail, author Fenster chronicles the 1856 case of murdered blacksmith George Anderson, and the role of young Illinois attorney and former congressman Abraham Lincoln. As the early days of the murder investigation unfold, a parallel narrative documents Lincoln's stalled career; at the time, he ""described himself as a flat failure,"" watching other politicos ""moving effortlessly into a life of luxury"" while Lincoln ""came home from his speaking tours... and went right back to buying groceries and mucking out the stall of his horse."" When Lincoln decides to take on the defense of George's wife, the main suspect (for less than $100), it proves a brilliant and pivotal career move. The case became a phenomenon: ""For infamy, Springfield had never seen anything like it...for complexity, it was far more interesting than the average property case."" Cannily, Lincoln figured it would become ""a lawyer's showcase,"" and rose to the opportunity. Serving as ""the backdrop for a year of sweeping transition for Abraham Lincoln,"" the case is also entangled with the establishment of the Republican party that Lincoln would champion. Unfortunately, the changing winds of politics and the specifics of the murder case don't make a perfect union; the story moves in fits and starts, making this meticulous and intimate look at the legendary Lincoln a worthwhile but labored read.