Hanging Mary

Sourcebooks Landmark. Mar. 2016. 400p. ISBN 9781492613626. pap. $15.99. F
OrangeReviewStarDeparting from the English settings of her previous novels (The Stolen Crown; The Traitor's Wife), Higginbotham transports readers to the final months of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln's assassination, and the aftermath. Dual narrators Mary Surratt and Nora Fitzpatrick, a resident of Mary's boardinghouse in Washington, DC, provide overlapping and differing perspectives on events that led to Mary's conviction and execution for her role in the murder of the president. With one son in the Confederate army, Mary's sympathies already were with the South, but the involvement of her other son, Johnny, with John Wilkes Booth draws her into webs of conspiracy. Odd visitors, secret messages, a kidnapping gone awry. What did Mary know and when? The author's success lies not only in developing individual characters but also in capturing the overall mood of the capital with swings of jubilation and despair. Imprisoned twice and called to testify during Mary's military trial, Nora remains convinced of Mary's ignorance of the conspirators' assassination plans. Detailed author's notes provide thumbnail sketches of the later lives of major characters and delineate ways the novel digresses from historical accounts.
VERDICT Compelling narrators carry readers through complex events while leaving many questions open for discussion. A fine choice for historical fiction fans, particularly book club members, who will appreciate the reading group guide.

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