Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton & Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America’s First Sensational Murder Mystery

Paul Collins. Crown, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-307-95645-3
NPR’s “literary detective” once again applies his skills as a historian to a now-obscure crime that was a cause célèbre in its day. With a novelist’s touch, Collins (The Murder of the Century) opens with the January 1800 discovery of a woman’s body in a Manhattan well, before flashing back six months to provide the back-story to that grim find. The victim proves to be Elma Sands, a Quaker woman who had disappeared from her lodging house under circumstances that led authorities to suspect carpenter and fellow boarder Levi Weeks. Fortunately for Weeks, his defense fell to two of the most prominent and skilled lawyers of the day—bitter political rivals Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, whose later fatal duel casts a somber pall over the suspenseful account of the crime, the trial, and its aftermath. Using the court transcript as a primary source, Collins makes the most of the inherent drama of the case, and goes one step further to unearth convincing proof of the identity of the real killer. Agent: Michelle Tessler, Tessler Literary Agency. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/15/2013
Release date: 06/04/2013
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