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On Secret Service

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  1,263 ratings  ·  76 reviews
A dramatic tale of spying and espionage, On Secret Service chronicles the Civil War from its onset to Lincoln's assassination. Jakes follows the romance of two couples, divided by war and allegiance. Lon Price is a Pinkerton detective assigned to the railroad out of Chicago. Lon ends up helping in the Union war effort when Pinkerton pledges his company and his men to Gener ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published June 1st 2000 by Dutton Adult (first published January 1st 2000)
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3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,263 ratings  ·  76 reviews

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Dana Taylor
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read a few chapters of this and put it down because it didn't hook me into it, but picked it up again and it finally got me. I couldn't put it down. After reading this, I found myself needing more about this era.
Bianca Jane Manahane
I love novels that I can easily picture as films, and this piece is definitely one of them. All the action that follows within the era just keep the book exciting! Also, the "forbidden love" discovered within the lives of the characters is what really kept me entertained! As a plus, I felt it was really faithful to the time and place it was set in.
Aug 23, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
I'm about halfway through this book and still waiting for something to happen... I read John Jakes many years ago and a visitor left this one behind for me. I'm going to keep trying, but I'm slowly losing enthusiasm.

Update: I gave up on this book, which I almost never do. Ended up giving it to a friend who was visiting. Definitely did not live up to my fond memories of John Jakes.
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main players are Lon Price, the ardent abolitionist and rising-star operative of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and Margaret Miller, the beautiful, initially vacuous daughter of the South whose chief concern is that the war be over quickly so as not to interfere with Washington's upcoming social season. After a chance encounter in a Washington park, they are as repulsed by each other's political views as they are drawn together by an undeniable physical chemistry. As hostilities increase, t ...more
The story revolves around spying during the Civil War. Alonzo Price (Lon) works for the Pinkerton Agency in Chicago as a detective. When the Civil War breaks out, Pinkerton aligns himself with General George McClellan the operation moves to Washington, D.C. In Washington, Lon meets a Southern sympathizer, Margaret Miller whose brother and father are key players in the Southern cause.

We also meet the men Lon works with; Margaret's friend, Hanna and her father, an Austrian officer who was forced
Phil Shaw
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really do wish that I had discovered John Jakes earlier in life given how much I have enjoyed the books written by him that I have read since stumbling across him last year. Not only does he tell a great story, as with the case on On Secret Service, but his knowledge of the period of which he writes is staggering. Some criticise him for too much historical detail, I would argue that it places his characters in context and adds an air of authenticity to his novels. Too often, I read historical ...more
Robert Sterling
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A civil war novel.

The more I read about the civil war the more I'm convinced it was a worthless exercise in stupidity. Fought over commerce mostly and the south's rights to sell commerce without paying levies to the government sparked it. Slavery was secondary but not the prime reason for the war.
Aug 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was okay. In terms of the Civil War I would rather re-read North & South. I did like that he included a page about Charles Main. At times I had a hard time keeping track of the characters or wondering why I should care.
Joe Spoto
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An interesting fictionalized account of espionage and behind the scenes police work and during the civil war. It ends with the capture of Booth after Lincoln's assassination. Jakes' fictional characters intermingle with real historical figures such as Lincoln, McClellan, Pinkerton, and Booth.
Suhail Tareen
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is the first novel I read related to history.
Shirley lsmith
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
History of the Civil War

I found this book s very interesting read. I have enjoyed all of Jakes books, mainly because they are researched so thoroughly.
Jim Smith
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good read

I can remember as a child of always wanting to be a detective, later my dream came true. Just saying
Nicky Billou
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my first John Jakes book and I am hooked! I'll be buying, and reading all his books going forward.

Library copy. I've read this author before and liked him, but now I'm finding more language than I care for.

This is an excellently written book except for the abundance of language, written not in the author's voice, but in certain characters. It is also rather raw in scenes where this reader would rather use her imagination (sexual attraction, and more). For that reason I will not be reading more of Jakes' books. What a shame. Just don't use the words. Some of your readers get them stuck in our
Mar 06, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nein, kein Meisterwerk von John Jakes, Jahre lang mein Lieblingsautor. Es passiert wenig, es ist nicht wirklich spannend, der deutsche Titel "Mut zur Sehnsucht" bestätigt leider den Vorurteil, den man gleich hat. Es geht um zwei Liebespaare aus den verfeindeten Lagern im Bürgerkrieg. Daraus werden dann eben Geschichten konstruiert, die auf Grundlagen von Fakten entstanden sind, die aber nicht wirklich viel hergeben. Auch die Passage mit Charlie Main (aus der Fackeln im Sturm-Trilogie) ist sehr b ...more
Jim Butler
Feb 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Jake's Kent Chronicles and North and South trilogy so I already knew the format and style I was about to encounter. No surprises there. I was pleased he used little known facts about the Civil War like Lincoln's high voice, the balloon observatories, the NY riots, how train tracks were destroyed, and the story of Rose. I was disappointed with the lame attempt to tie Charles Main from the trilogy into the book. I also thought he could have given better context for the plot by referencing ...more
Dee Renee  Chesnut
Oct 29, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
On Secret Service has been in my home library on the Civil War historical fiction shelf for nearly eleven years. I bought it because I like historical fiction and because I respect the work John Jakes did with his Kent Family Chronicles and the North and South Trilogy.
Remembering these series as I did probably kept this book on the shelf this long. I remember a weakness of Mr. Jakes was the similarity of the plot on which he built his story that is supported by historical facts. Too often he use
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When the Kent family chronicles were first published, I read them as quickly as they appeared on the bookstore shelves. However, it has been several years since I read any John Jakes novels. So, On Secret Service was like meeting a old friend after many years apart. As always, the historical information is fantastic and especially little known facts that add such color. This book takes place mostly in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War. Its theme is the type of military intelligence that was ...more
Sep 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adventure - Historical
This book, about the Union Spy network during the American Civil war sends mixed messages to the reader. Are reading a histirical account of the war? Are we reading about the proverbable Spy vs Spy? Or are we reading about how low one can become to his fellow man during these times. What happens when men "dehumanize" their advesary and just look at them as the aninal call the enemy.

I will not tell you the answer, read it and find out yourself. I, myself, will probably now read his other books no
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shelf
I am currently reading On Secret Service by John Jakes. This is the first time I have read this book, it is an extremely good book. This is a non-fiction book. I liked this book because I am into The eighteen hundreds. "She likes me. She's from Maryland, and she supports the south as strongly as you" (15). This book deals with the Civil-War and the beginning of spying in the United States. This quote relates to what I am stating because in the 1800's spying was a huge thing through out the war. ...more
Jul 21, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think "big" topics, like war, deserve to be viewed from multiple perspectives. John Jakes has provided a unique perspective on the US's Civil War--the war in context with the genesis of the country's secret service. Pinkerton's detectives become Union spies and bodyguards. The Confederacy also uses spies. This novel is an interesting look at both the war and the development of a professional spy/secret service network.

I thought one aspect of the novel's construction was a little too "pat", to
Merrybeth Morford grindahl
I have read most of John Jakes historical novels. I love the settings, characters problems and solutions. But Secret Service was a big disappointment. None of the characters were appealing. The book moved slowly. Many scenes were rehashed from North and South Trilogy. (Ie: the man who lived through the burning building). I took a break, read another book then came back, determined to finish it. I have also read other books that treated the prison scene in Richmond much better. I guess even good ...more
Linda Munro
Jul 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spies, espionage and treason Civil War style; this novel depicts the beginnings of spying in America. Having accomplished a great deal of research on this exact issue, I feel that the depiction Jakes has given to the idea of spying during the Civil War and to the rise of Pinkerton Security as accurate a portrayal as possible. This novel gives the reader an overall view of life in America during the Civil War era. I suggest that anyone interested in history, especially the American Civil War shou ...more
Aug 24, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love most of John Jakes' books and am totally hooked on Civil War period novels. This was disappointing though because it read more like a history book and I never really felt connected to the characters or really cared what happened to them. It seemed promising though, about a spy from the north crossing enemy lines and of course falling in love with the beautiful southern bell but it was actually pretty boring.
Chelsea Sprague
Jakes' novel does a wonderful job of putting a new spin on a classic historical fiction story. His well developed characters and factual information lend an heir of realism to the story that is very characteristic of his works. After finishing the book and reflecting on what I read, I really did enjoy the storyline, however, Jakes' style is not for everyone. He can sometimes come off as rather dry, slightly anticlimactic, and this slightly detracted from my enjoyment of the novel.
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Best book I have read for while. Gritty, historical, realistic, good characters. Personal view from a handful of characters of the Civil War. Pinkerton detective agency is now working with President Lincoln's new government to obtain secret information about movements of the Southern armies in order to preserve the Union and prevent the southern states from seceding. Told from the viewpoint of a handful of diverse characters.
May 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Either it's getting harder for me to read grown up books (as a middle school librarian I read a lot of YA), or I just don't like civil war books. I had a hard time getting through this book. And I know I like this author, because of course I read his North and South trilogy. I don't know. I just found it pretty boring. And I kept getting some of the characters mixed up, because there are a lot of them.
Jun 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read John Jakes since the Kent Family Chronicles many years ago. After reading this book, I can't figure out why it has taken me so long to pick him up again. I am a fan of historical fiction, and Jakes is very good at placing fictional characters in stories with real figures from history and blending them seamlessly. I learn more about our history from his books than I did in school. This book is about the birth of spying during the Civil War. Full of facts in a gripping story.
Jan 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting slant on the Civil War that focuses on the beginnings of the Secret Service. The detailed accounts of the hatred that the South and even some Northerners had of Lincoln drive the story and raise doubts about who was really behind the assassination. Good historical fiction in John Jakes tradition - readable and informative.
May 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a long time since I read a book by John Jakes. I used to really enjoy them. I wasn't as keen on this one for some reason. Was it worse than the others I read or am I just a different reader than I was in high school/college? Not sure, but it was kind of slow and not as interesting as I was hoping for.
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John Jakes, the author of more than a dozen novels, is regarded as one of today’s most distinguished writers of historical fiction. His work includes the highly acclaimed Kent Family Chronicles series and the North and South Trilogy. Jakes’s commitment to historical accuracy and evocative storytelling earned him the title of “the godfather of historical novelists” from the Los Angeles Times and le ...more