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The Ballad of Frankie Silver [Audio Cassette]

Sharyn Mccrumb
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 22 2002
From the author of The Rosewood Casket and She Walks These Hills comes a lyrical new novel of obsession and suspense. In 1833, 18-year-old Frankie Silver became the first woman in North Carolina to be hanged for murdering her husband. But was she guilty? More than one hundred years later, obsessed by the story of Frankie Silver, Sheriff Spencer Arrowood is determined to reveal the truth about a new murder case that has many parallels to the long-ago murder.

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From Amazon

Sharyn McCrumb is one of the major wonders of the mystery world. Her books about forensic anthropologist Elizabeth MacPherson (including Highland Laddie Gone) are strong, meaty contemporary stories; her comic novels (Bimbos of the Death Sun, Zombies of the Gene Pool) are delightful satires. And then there's the jewel in her crown, the series known as the Ballad novels (including The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter and The Rosewood Casket) where the third-generation Appalachian resident McCrumb sews together what she calls "colored scraps of legends, ballads and fragments of rural life and local tragedy" into books that are like Appalachian quilts. The Ballad of Frankie Silver is the fifth in the Ballad series, and it might well be the best. The blend between the old story and the new is perfect, as Sheriff Spencer Arrowood digs into the 1832 case of the first woman ever hanged for murder in North Carolina--18-year-old Frankie Silver, charged with dismembering her husband--while some disturbing new evidence is surfacing about another, much more recent capital crime. If you have friends who don't read mysteries but liked Cold Mountain, pointing them toward McCrumb might be the start of something big. --Dick Adler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

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 clbre 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 GaitherSpencer 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) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring & Tedious June 28 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A complete waste of time....I found reading this book
to be a laborious chore. Switching back & forth every
other chapter between the stories (& centuries) was
irritating. The author at times forgets common sense
in telling her tale.
This is the first book I have attempted to read by this
author. It will be the last!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag May 29 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I completely enjoyed the Frankie Silver part of the story, and was inspired to do some web and library searching of my own on the topic. McCrumb did an excellent job of relating the history and making it come alive.
I had more trouble, however, with the fictional side of the story. (major spoilers ahead!) Some reviewers, and McCrumb herself, have classified this novel as being "about class and justice." I'd say it's more about truth and justice. In both cases, the historical and the fictional, the defendant withheld information that would have changed the outcome of the case. Yes, Frankie's hill-born ignorance of the law might have kept her from making her confession before the trial, when the self-defense plea would have helped. But her hanging was based not so much on the killing as the mutilation of her husband's body, and she kept her lips eternally sealed about that with full knowledge of what the information would mean to those it involved. That decision wasn't born out of poverty or ignorance, and it sealed her fate. While the second case was put in to prove "the rich don't hang," it also showed that stubborn pride and misplaced loyalty to brethren isn't just a hill trait.
The supposed parallel on the fictional side doesn't work very well for me. Frankie was protecting those who'd tried to protect her. Fate's "sacrifice" was a crime in itself, given the violence of the trail murders. Also, it's hard to believe that even in the dark ages of the '70's, law enforcement would content itself with prosecuting the youngest, never previously indicted brother of a troublemaking clan, never even looking sideways at the two eldest who already have felony convictions.
You can look at recent legal cases in the news and know that Ms.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A haunting and compelling book March 26 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have enjoyed many of Sharyn McCrumbs books, mostly on audio tape, but I read this one and it is an unusual mystery story, rich in implications regarding the death penalty. The subject is deftly handled so that the reader does not feel clubbed over the head, and the interwoven stories are developed with texture and depth of character (including the character of the region). I would suggest not only this book, but can safely recommend all of McCrumb's work. Thank you Sharyn.
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5.0 out of 5 stars taken from something that really happened Jan. 1 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Sharyn took this story from something that was true.
This book is so good. Of course Sharyn is at her best again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's All Good Sept. 29 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Anything by Sharyn McCrumb is great. She can tell a story within a story, bringing the past into relevance with the here and now. I went to see Sharyn when she spoke in Evansville. She passes her respect of Appalachia to her audience. In the Appalachia series you get the story behind the old ballad running alongside current events, both past and present come together in the final chapters.
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5.0 out of 5 stars LYRIC PROSE Sept. 19 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
When I turned the last page of The Ballad of Frankie Silver I remember thinking "this is the best book I've ever read". Sharyn McCrumb's prose reads like poetry, not a single word or emotion wasted and everything she says contributes to the quality of the whole. You are never rushing through parts of the story, but instead savor every word. I just wish there were more books like it! What's so interesting is to think that the same woman who wrote Bimbo's of the Death Sun (the first of her books I read) wrote Frankie Silver. The woman's a verbal chameleon! This book caught and held my interest from the first chapter to the final page and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I was so intrigued by the subject and story itself that I ended up doing a web search about Frankie Silver and realized just how much actual history McCrumb has woven into her story. One reviewer called her Ballad Books the "jewel in her crown", a statement I wholeheartedly agree with, and having read all of the Ballad Books I believe Frankie Silver stands above the rest. I fantastic story!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Keeps you interested, whole way through May 23 2003
Format:School & Library Binding
One thing about a McCrumb book, they keep your interest the whole way through! They're all great, filled with suspense and mystery. You can't wait to get to the end to see what happens! Highly recommend all of the books in the Ballad Series.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
This true story of an eighteen year old frontier girl hanged for murder is a stirring tale of mountain justice but it is also a study of contrasts between the mountain south of log cabins and trappers and the flat land south of plantations. The magic in this story is that the author brings to life people who have been dead for more than a century, making us care about the fate of one young girl who should not have been sentenced to death. An intriguing look at how the poor are treated in the justice system.
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