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A Case for Solomon: Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping That Haunted a Nation Hardcover – August 14, 2012

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A Case for Solomon: Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping That Haunted a Nation + A Murder in Wellesley: The Inside Story of an Ivy-League Doctor's Double Life, His Slain Wife, and the Trial That Gripped the Nation
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (August 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439158592
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439158593
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A thoughtful look at the elusiveness of truth and the fluidity of identity… It’s difficult not to empathize with both sides of this case, as everyone loses something—particularly the child caught in the middle.” --Publisher's Weekly

"A Case For Solomon is a fascinating tale of an American changeling -- a little boy lost to the Louisiana swamps, only to be conjured back by headlines and a mother's agony. Within the life of Bobby Dunbar, a man who was a mystery even to himself, Tal McThenia and Margaret Cutright have uncovered a dramatic case of families caught between grief, injustice, and the desperate will to believe." --Paul Collins, author of The Murder of the Century

"A Case for Solomon is haunting and unforgettable. It swept me up like no other book I've read in a long time. It is a mystery story finally solved after a hundred years, but it's also a profound and heartbreaking examination of identity and loss told by writers whose hard-won research and narrative gifts are plain on every page. The exotic settings, the characters whose love redeems as well as destroys, a plot that is downright biblical...and in the end a little boy with arms outstretched and this question on his lips: Who am I?" -- John Ed Bradley, author of Tupelo Nights and It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium

A Case for Solomon can easily be read as a kidnapping mystery or a legal thriller or a saga of class privilege or a lively indictment of the deadly shenanigans when the media circus comes to town. To me, it’s a tragic accounting of the abuses inherent in our confidence about what's in the best interests of a child. And all of it is evidence of the power of nonfiction--fact after astonishing fact.” --Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx

"a solid read that provides plenty of food for thought." --Library Journal

A Case For Solomon is a thoroughly researched and detailed work of history that lets its mystery unfold with the restraint and craft of a detective story. Though as suspenseful and dark as any good thriller... it wonders, through the telling of the shocking tale, at greater questions - about the nature of identity, and family, and to what lengths people might go to avoid knowing a terrible truth." --The Times-Picayune

"A Case for Solomon... which reads like fiction, revisits the sensational 1912 kidnapping of four-year-old Bobby Dunbar from the swamps of Louisiana. The discovery of a boy matching Bobby’s description in rural Mississippi and the shocking emergence of an indigent woman from North Carolina claiming to be his mother were red meat to newsmen ravenous for scandal. The nation was rapt for months, although the mystery wouldn’t be solved for a century." --Vanity Fair

"The saga related in the book is so mind-bending that some readers might need to digest certain passages about family connections more than once, as I felt compelled to do. It is worth the effort." -- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"A fascinating narrative about an ostensible kidnapping and a 90-year case of mistaken identity, fully steeped in the flavor of the era. [A Case for Solomon] is a narrative about the fierceness of parental love, the flaws of the legal system, and ultimately about how we derive our own sense of who we are." --The Boston Globe

About the Author

Tal McThenia is a freelance writer who reported and wrote The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar, a one-hour radio documentary for the acclaimed public radio series This American Life. He has received residencies at the ShenanArt’s Playwrights’ Workshop and the MacDowell Colony. He lives in New York.

Margaret Dunbar Cutright is the granddaughter of Bobby Dunbar, the victim of the kidnapping in A Case for Solomon. She has researched the case for more than a decade, gathering and analyzing legal documents, family correspondence, and newspapers, and has had extensive and ongoing contact with descendants of all three of the families involved in the story. She lives in North Carolina.

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Customer Reviews

I have so far read 1/3 of this book.
The story went on a little long with perhaps too much detail; a better editing would have served it well.
Philly gal
I hadn't heard about this story before reading this book and it was well written, fast read.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Philly gal VINE VOICE on August 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book tells the story of a sensational kidnapping of a four year old boy in Louisiana in 1912. The coauthors have produced an extremely well researched book. The story in a nutshell - Bobby Dunbar son of Lessie and Percy Dunbar disappears from a family campsite right around dinner time. Despite extensive search efforts no trace of Bobby is found. Initially it is believed he has drowned or perhaps been eaten by an alligator (remember we are in Louisiana) but as time goes on with no sign of him his parents become convinced that he has been kidnapped. Bobby has a distinguishing mark - a burn scar on his big toe. The public's fascination with the boy's disappearance leads to many reported sightings throughout the Gulf Coast. Bobby's father faithfully follows up on each sighting. Finally William Walters a travelling piano tuner accompanied by a young boy with a strong resemblance to Bobby becomes the focus of the search. Despite the fact that this boy does not have a scar on his foot and despite the fact that Bobby's parents do not immediately identify him as their son and despite the fact that after 8 months the child does not recognize the Dunbars nor a younger brother Alonzo the child is taken from Walters and taken in by the Dunbars as their son Bobby. When a destitute single mother from North Carolina Julia Anderson steps forward to claim the boy as her son Bruce Anderson she is consistently shunted aside.
The story takes some twists and turns after this. Walters is tried and found guilty of kidnapping despite all kinds of evidence that should have helped acquit him. Various neighbors and friends are fairly sure that this child is not Bobby Dunbar. Through some strange legal maneuverings Walters is released from jail (again remember we are in Louisiana).
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Leaman G. Crews on August 27, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having first heard of the Bobby Dunbar case from the 2008 "This American Life" radio show episode devoted to it, I was looking forward to this book for a long time. The case is fascinating still to this day, the 100th anniversary of the disappearance of Dunbar that put the whole story in motion. And the book mostly lived up to -- and exceeded -- my expectations, until it came to the end.

"The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar", the radio show from '08, focused mainly on Margaret Dunbar's search for the truth to her grandfather's heritage in the early 21st century. Of course, it told the backstory of the Dunbar "kidnapping" in excellent detail too, but the meat of the story was Margaret's quest for the truth and how it isolated her from her family that really didn't want to know the truth.

When reading through "A Case for Solomon", I was overwhelmed at times. The level of detail, culled from old newspaper reports, legal briefs and other historical records, is truly amazing. Especially when it came to the trial of Cant Walters: I found myself having to go back to the "Cast of Characters" section at the beginning of the book to keep straight who was who.

As a piece of reporting, as a legal thriller, as a missing persons/kidnapping epic, "A Case for Solomon" has few peers. It really is exceptional in this regard. Once it gets past the trial, though, the next 80 to 90 years are told in a much more condensed fashion. I was looking forward to that high level of detail being given to the story told in "The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar", including more about Percy Dunbar, Margaret meeting the descendants of Julia Anderson (and totally rubbing them the wrong way at first), and more about the DNA test that broke this story wide open, and all the drama surrounding that.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mary J. Gramlich VINE VOICE on September 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It is an undisputed fact that Bobby Dunbar disappeared during a family trip, and was recovered eight months later having been abducted by a man of nefarious background. The question that arose after he was found became "who does this child belong to." Two families are claiming he is there son, and lacking the modern technology to confirm Bobby's parentage the case is tried by public opinion. The press is allowed to draw conclusions, the public pick sides, and families torn apart trying to take this child back into their life. Who is right becomes a fight over more than just Bobby does; it became a statement against life style, discrimination, and how money can buy a verdict.

The overall size of the book seems daunting but this story needs every page to make sure readers know exactly what is going on and when. The facts unfold slowly and with precise detail to showcase every step taken during the entire process where a child's life lay in the balance. It is told through documented facts, implied conversations, and family gossip, combined together make for a compelling and riveting read you cannot put down until you have it completed.

We all examine our family wondering if we know all the secrets and where the skeletons are hidden. What if every little secret about your family was documented for everyone to reflect on and you wonder your entire life if this is in fact really your family. This was more than 15 minutes of fame for Bobby Dunbar, it was a lifetime of nightmares and inconclusive information.
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