The Ballad of Jacob Peck

Debra Komar. Goose Lane Editions, $19.95 (250p) ISBN 978-0-86492-903-7
Anthropologist Komar delves into an infamous murder in New Brunswick history and the intriguing question: to what extent is one man responsible for the sins of another? Komar (Forensic Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Practice (2008)) meticulously researched the 1805 case of the brutal stabbing of Mercy Hall by her brother Amos Babock, who evidence suggests was driven by a religious mania. Jacob Peck, the illiterate charlatan circuit preacher, whose only credentials were a soapbox and a bible that he couldn't read, has been accused of inducing the mania in Babcock. Amos hung for the crime. Jacob was charged with blasphemy, but the charges went nowhere. When Komar lets herself loose to tell the story, her prose is lyrical and elegant, but the book is caught between being academic research and a novel. Komar is careful not to stray from what she knows to be true, but since the historical record is scant on details of Amos, Mercy and Jacob, the main characters of the story never fully develop into flesh-and-blood people. Characters such as a neighbor, the coroner and jailkeeper who are peripheral to the story but mentioned more in the historical record, are better developed. The result is less than satisfying. Agent: Carolyn Swayze. (Mar) North American distribution: Univ. of Toronto.
Reviewed on: 04/15/2013
Release date: 03/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 264 pages - 978-0-86492-766-8
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