Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery

J. Aaron Sanders. Plume, $16 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-14-312871-7
Early in Sanders’s gripping first novel, set in New York City in 1843, Walt Whitman, a 23-year-old reporter, tries but fails to rescue a friend of his, Lena Stowe, from the hangman at the Tombs, the city jail. Lena is executed for the murder of her husband, Abraham, with whom she cofounded a women’s medical college. In his subsequent quest to prove Lena’s innocence, Walt tangles with a pair of tough grave diggers and a powerful real-life Tammany Hall boss, Isaiah Rynders. Lending a hand is Edgar Allan Poe, who has recently serialized a story in a magazine that’s a thinly fictionalized account of the Mary Rogers murder case, in which Abraham was involved. Meanwhile, Henry Saunders, Walt’s lover, stakes out a cemetery. The author addresses the then-controversial issue of anatomical dissection and imbues all his characters, even the villains, with humanity. Fans of Daniel Stashower’s account of the Mary Rogers case, The Beautiful Cigar Girl, won’t want to miss this auspicious debut. Agent: Jeff Kleinman, Folio Literary Management. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/14/2015
Release date: 03/01/2016
Hardcover - 978-1-4104-9109-1
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