Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery

Crown. May 2013. 288p. notes. ISBN 9780307956453. $26. CRIME
In this latest in a series of curious works from the wide-ranging Collins (The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars), NPR's "literary detective," may have created a new subgenre of early republic true crime. He delves into the true story of Elma Sands's murder in 1799 New York City. When the beautiful Quaker woman's mutilated body was discovered in famed lawyer Aaron Burr's Manhattan well, public outcry rose against the prime murder suspect, her suitor Levi Weeks. Burr joined with his rival Alexander Hamilton to defend Weeks both in the courtroom and to the clamoring public. Not only does Collins provide an absorbing mystery, he also offers an entrancing account of the era's yellow journalism (think Pulitzer and Hearst) while illuminating the legal acumen of two of our country's greatest trial lawyers—and he solves the cold case of Elma Sands's murder to boot.
VERDICT With an historian's dedication to detail, Collins brings to life the dusty story discovered in voluminous trial transcripts and newspaper clippings. An entertaining read is in store for those lucky enough to find this book.
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