REVIEW: Death of an Assassin by Ann Marie Ackermann

**Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for writing this review.**


Death of an Assassin is a short but fascinating work of history. It tells the story of a murderer from the German states who died at Robert E. Lee's side during the Mexican-American War. He made enough of an impression on Lee that Lee mentioned the man in a letter home. As much a history of crime-solving techniques as a biography of a little-known historical character, the story Ackermann tells is intriguing.

Ackermann's writing is clear, vivid, and engaging. Her choice of detail, spot-on, and the photographs included enhance the story, rather than distract from it. Sometimes it really does help to actually see what a place or an object looks like, instead of relying on a written description. History is best told from primary sources, and that's exactly what Ackermann did. Her narrative is based largely on primary sources, both German and American.

There were only a few small things that I wish Ackermann had done a little differently. The first part of the book is set almost entirely in Germany, with the exception of a chapter about Robert E. Lee and a chapter about Texan independence. Because those chapters were one-offs in a sense, they were a bit distracting. I would rather have stayed in Germany and then read those chapters when the narrative moved across the Atlantic.

My other quibble comes as a lover of mysteries. Ackermnan reveals the assassin's name about halfway through the book. Or rather, she reveals the name of the soldier and tells us he's the assassin. I'm glad we got to know the soldier's name when we did, but I would have preferred to make the connection to the assassination when the world did--after the soldier's death.

She also made a passing reference to Commodore Perry, and I very much want to know if that's the same Commodore Perry who forced Japan open to trade in the 1850s. That wasn't addressed in the Notes, and I wish it had been.

That said, these are all minor quibbles, and they did not interfere with my interest in or enjoyment of the book.