The Rope: A True Story of Murder, Heroism, and the Dawn of the NAACP

37 Ink: S. &. S. Feb. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9781982114022. $28. HIST
Tresniowski (The Vendetta) breathes life into a largely forgotten murder mystery in this gripping true crime story. When 10-year-old Marie Smith was murdered in Asbury Park, NJ, in 1910, no one suspected that the event would catapult the creation of the NAACP, whose lawyers worked to free someone who was falsely accused of the crime. Marie’s murder, which took place in the tumultuous years between the Civil War and the civil rights movement, brought together individuals across racial and class divisions to develop methods for criminal detection, challenging Jim Crow standards, and seeking justice for all of those unjustly killed. Tresniowski’s storytelling focuses on each of the major players, including schoolgirl Marie Smith, civil rights crusader Ida B. Wells, and rookie New York detective Ray Schindler, who helped arrange a sting operation to catch the killer. Tresniowski richly details the investigation into Marie’s murder, and how the techniques for criminal detection used in this case helped to form the early basis of forensic criminology at the turn of the century.
VERDICT This gripping story is an important reminder of the many layers of injustice still present in the United States, and would be a timely, relevant addition to most true crime and history collections.
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