Ballad Of Frankie Silver
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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.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
1) Her exquisite storytelling ability is historically accurate. If the times are set in the early 1830's, she is not going to write in a contemporary style. She captures the dialogue of the era based on written documents of the time. Therefore, her dialogue sounds stilted or dry at times.
2) Ms. McCrumb is a baby boomer. One complaint was that the stories were about people in an older generation. Well, to that I suggest our young reader return to Harry Potter and wait for puberty to pass. McCrumb is a middle-aged adult who writes for adults.
3)When history is viewed as dry and boring, (I fault public school education for teaching history as a dry and boring subject) McCrumb's ballad books will also seem dry and boring. When history is viewed as the true tale of humanity, there is much to learn from her books. Or, to quote George Santayana: "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." We do not know where we are going if we do not know where we have been.
4) McCrumb's ballad series have overall themes, in other words, a big picture. For example, in the "Ballad of Frankie Silver" the theme is the inequality of justice for poor people. She even explains the theme in the Author Notes at the end of the book. If one has trouble with big pictures, or synthesizing information, he or she will be disappointed with McCrumb's ballad series.Read more ›
She does not fail in this book. She particularly has the skill of combining three stories together, whether one be in the past and one the future, and in the end all of them coming together, thereby always making a cohesive, dramatic ending.
The present-day story in this book is about an upcoming electrocution of Fate Harkryder for murder. The story of the future concerns Frankie Silver who brutally murdered her husband in 1832 (or did she?). But wait, there is then a third murder in the book. What do the three have in common? That is the mystery in this book.
As another review put it, this book all encompasses the story of the Celts versus the English - from the past down to even the present. It still makes for good reading.
Most recent customer reviews
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)... Read more
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. Read morePublished on March 26 2004 by Bernie Cullen
Sharyn took this story from something that was true.
This book is so good. Of course Sharyn is at her best again.
Anything by Sharyn McCrumb is great. She can tell a story within a story, bringing the past into relevance with the here and now. Read morePublished on Sept. 29 2003 by Lorri Richey
One thing about a McCrumb book, they keep your interest the whole way through! They're all great, filled with suspense and mystery. Read morePublished on May 23 2003 by Theresa W
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... Read morePublished on May 12 2003
Being a native of western North Carolina, and having grown up around the legend of Frankie and Charley Silver, the title of the book itself intrigued me. Read morePublished on Feb. 7 2002 by Scott Jenkins
The Ballad of Frankie Silver is two stories, one true and one fiction, woven together through mystery and similarity. Read morePublished on July 15 2001 by AllieKat