Saturday, May 25, 2013

Death at Crooked Creek

A Death at Crooked Creek
The Case of the Cowboy, the Cigarmaker, and the Love Letter
by Marrianne Wesson
2013 NYU Press
Received an E-galley from the publisher

Part true crime and part courtroom drama, Death at Crooked Creek explores the mystery of who was actually buried in Lawrence, Kansas in the grave of John Hillmon. Wesson, through the use of court transcripts and news articles of the time, creates a fascinating story around what was thought to be a simple case of insurance fraud, a case that became so much more historically significant. It was this set of trials that introduced a new exception to the rule of hearsay as evidence, an exception whose ramifications are still felt today. She does a great job of distilling six different trials worth of testimony into a compelling story. I was equally as fascinated by Wesson's own troubles in researching the case and hopes of forensically identifying the dead man as I was the case itself. It was my love of genealogy that drew me to the story and though the conclusion is not quite what I'd hoped for, her theory for how it could have played out is much more plausible than any put forth by either side during the trials.