Review of Hanged!: Mary Surratt & the Plot to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln

Hanged!: Mary Surratt & the Plot to Assassinate Abraham LincolnHanged!: Mary Surratt & the Plot to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln
by Sarah Miller
Middle School, High School    Random House Studio/Random    352 pp.    g
11/22    978-0-593-18156-0    $18.99
Library ed.  978-0-593-18157-7    $21.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-18158-4    $11.99

On April 14, 1865, just days after the conclusion of the Civil War, John Wilkes Booth shot (and killed) President ­Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater. Booth would die more than two weeks later during the attempt to apprehend him, and attention shifted onto his accomplices and co-conspirators. Caught up in the plot was the widow Mary Surratt, who ran a Washington, DC, boardinghouse that Booth and other conspirators (including Surratt’s son) frequented. ­Surratt’s guilt by association and the hearsay surrounding her role in the plot were enough to condemn her to the ­gallows after one of the most unusual trials in American history. Miller (The Borden Murders, rev. 1/16) finds the unlikeliest of protagonists in Surratt. Using court transcripts and contemporaneous secondary sources, Miller pieces together information surrounding Surratt, her family, and her boardinghouse guests during and after the assassination of the sixteenth president. Extensively researched, the narrative is carefully organized to give readers the bearings necessary to follow specifics of the many witnesses and their multiple versions of events. The story lays bare the shocking disregard for judicial normalcy as Surratt and her co-defendants were tried in a peacetime military court while simultaneously tried by the newspapers of the day. True-crime fans will be enthralled by this compelling nineteenth-century case and the woman at its emotional center. Appended with an author’s note, list of sources, and an index (unseen).

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eric Carpenter
Eric Carpenter
Eric Carpenter is the school librarian at Fred A. Toomer Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia.

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