The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln

Kate Clifford Larson, Author . Basic $26 (263p) ISBN 978-0-465-03815-2

Was Mary Surratt an accomplice in Lincoln's assassination and justly sent to the scaffold? Larson freshly tackles these questions in this spirited narrative, mining just about every shred of evidence. While having started out believing in her subject's innocence, she ends up convinced that Surratt was guilty of joining John Wilkes Booth's plot to kill the president. Less sure, however, that Surratt should have swung from the gallows, Larson (Bound for the Promised Land ) leaves this deeply freighted moral question open, as it should be. The tale itself could not be better told, nor could the cast of characters be brought more to life. What mars the work is Larson's maddening, anachronistic use of “Mary” to name her subject (no “Abe” for Lincoln here, no “John” for Booth) and her missing the chance to draw out the implications of the role of Surratt—a widow in an otherwise all-male plot—for our understanding of women's place in her day. But it's now up to those who still think Surratt innocent to prove Larson wrong. They'll be hard put to do so. Illus., maps. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/07/2008
Release date: 06/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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