This books teeters on the line between presenting a complex historical portrait and, at the same time, clearly identifying a bad guy—namely, Dr. D. Willard Bliss. Unfortunately, the balance seems to have been impossible to strike, and the book finally devolves into a character attack. Bliss was certainly no hero, and there is plenty to criticize in his involvement with the case. But things are never so simple, and most of the rest of the book displays its author's attempts to show that. The assassin himself, for example, as well as Alexander Graham Bell and President Garfield himself—all receive fairly well-rounded portrayals. These are some of the best parts of the book. But any time Dr. Bliss appears—and he dominates the last half of the book—the reader will know just what to expect. This may not be inaccurate; it may not even be imbalanced. But it certainly dilutes the power of the narrative, at the very least.
As a side note, two things I would have loved to see more of: Garfield's wife, Lucretia, and Garfield himself. In particular, his oratorical prowess could have been given more space. The quotes which serve as epigrams for each chapter are wonderful, and could have borne more context. And his nomination of John Sherman is one of the most impressive speeches I've ever seen. He seems to have been quite a presence, and it would have been nice to spend more time with him. But perhaps I'm asking for too much of an exhaustive biography a la Team of Rivals, rather than what this book actually tries to be—the story of one event with its antecedents and consequences. Nevertheless, more attention to Garfield would have been welcome, if only as a counterweight to (or substitute for) the assassination of poor Dr. Bliss.