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THE BALLAD OF FRANKIE SILVER by Sharyn McCrumb

THE BALLAD OF FRANKIE SILVER

By Sharyn McCrumb

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-525-93969-5
Publisher: Dutton

A summons to a long-delayed execution--Fate Harkryder, the condemned man he arrested 20 years ago, has reached the end of his appeals--sends Tennessee sheriff Spencer Arrowood back in time over 150 years to the case of Frankie Silver, the teenaged bride and mother who was hanged in North Carolina in 1832 for killing her husband with an ax, dismembering his body, and burning it in front of their baby daughter in their one-room cabin (an outrage that turned the locals against her more powerfully than the murder itself). Spencer has been haunted for years by Frankie’s true-life case--a painful example, from arrest and trial to appeal and execution, of upper-class justice inflicted on a lower-class defendant--but even he wonders what possible connection this cause cÇläbre can have to the even more sordid case of Harkryder, convicted of robbing, raping, and killing a pair of young lovers hiking the Appalachian Trail. As he delves more deeply into Frankie Silver’s story--presented here through the eyes of court clerk Burgess Gaither—Spencer comes ever closer to the last secret the doomed murderer took to her grave, while realizing that that knowledge may leave him as powerless to help Fate Harkryder as to mitigate the law for Frankie Silver herself. Though the weight of the evidence sifted makes this in some ways the most impressive of McCrumb’s acclaimed Ballad series (The Rosewood Casket, 1996, etc.), the burden of numberless names, relations, pasts, and futures, which make the point about class justice a hundred times over, eventually sinks the modern-day narrative in conscientious local history. (Literary Guild selection; Mystery Guild main selection; author tour)