Monday, March 15, 2010

Non-Fiction Monday: An Unspeakable Crime

Jacket description:
"Was an innocent man wrongly accused of murder? On April 26, 1913, thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan planned to meet friends at a parade in Atlanta, Georgia. But first she stopped at the pencil factory where she worked to pick up her paycheck. Mary never left the building alive.


A black watchman found Mary's body brutally beaten and raped. Police arrested the watchman, but they weren't satisfied that he was the killer. Then they paid a visit to Leo Frank, the factory's superintendent, who was both a northerner and a Jew. Spurred on by the media frenzy and prejudices of the time, the detectives made Frank their prime suspect, one whose conviction would soothe the city's anger over the death of a young white girl.


The prosecution of Leo Frank was front-page news for two years, and Frank's lynching is still one of the most controversial incidents of the twentieth century. It marks a turning point in the history of racial and religious hatred in America, leading directly to the founding of the Anti-Defamation League and to the rebirth of the modern Ku Klux Klan. Relying on primary source documents and painstaking research, award-winning novelist Elaine Alphin tells the true story of justice undone in America."

Ooh...real life murder mystery for young adults! I used to read all sorts of true crime stories through high school, most of which were probably way above my maturity level, so ones aimed at my age level during that time would have been incredibly useful.

This story of Mary Phagan's murder and the prosecution of Leo Frank is accompanied by lots of black and white photos and other extras such as major figures in the Leo Frank case, a timeline, and a glossary of legal terms. There is a photo of the lynching, just as a warning, but the writing about both the murder and the lynching is tastefully done.

A bit wordy at times, the author, Elaine Marie Alphin, tends to go a tad more in-depth than probably necessary. I found myself skimming several passages, but was overall pretty pleased with the result. I liked the presentation and the fact that the material had been made appropriate for teens, without leaving out a whole lot of "stuff."

Overall result: 3 out of 5
Good choice for fans of true crime and other mysteries.

An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank
Elaine Marie Alphin
152 pages
Non-Fiction
Carolrdhoda Books
9780822589440
March 2010
Review copy received from publishing company

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2 comments:

Abby said...

Oh, I just started reading this one yesterday! It's fascinating because this weekend I read the adult memoir PICKING COTTON, about an innocent man who was convicted of rape in the 1980s and spent 11 years in prison before DNA testing helped free him.

I agree with you that it's a little more detail than I probably need or want, but it's so well-researched that I can forgive it that (though I am definitely skimming some parts).

Amanda said...

It was really very good, just too wordy. I can't see a 15 year old sitting down and just reading page after page, though it would make a great source for a project.