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The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln Kindle Edition

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Kindle, March 12, 2009

Length: 289 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Was Mary Surratt an accomplice in Lincoln's assassination and justly sent to the scaffold? Larson freshly tackles these questions in this spirited narrative, mining just about every shred of evidence. While having started out believing in her subject's innocence, she ends up convinced that Surratt was guilty of joining John Wilkes Booth's plot to kill the president. Less sure, however, that Surratt should have swung from the gallows, Larson (Bound for the Promised Land) leaves this deeply freighted moral question open, as it should be. The tale itself could not be better told, nor could the cast of characters be brought more to life. What mars the work is Larson's maddening, anachronistic use of Mary to name her subject (no Abe for Lincoln here, no John for Booth) and her missing the chance to draw out the implications of the role of Surratt—a widow in an otherwise all-male plot—for our understanding of women's place in her day. But it's now up to those who still think Surratt innocent to prove Larson wrong. They'll be hard put to do so. Illus., maps. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Larson captures brilliantly the atmosphere of Mary Surratt's trial in a crowded court room -- murder trials attract morbid spectators -- during the sweltering heat of a Washington summer. Her description of the drama of Mary's last hours, when she was broken by a death sentence that neither she nor her lawyers had believed possible, makes compelling reading."

Product Details

  • File Size: 1387 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (March 12, 2009)
  • Publication Date: March 12, 2009
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003Z9JMPM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #982,849 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Brent M. Jones on June 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
More specifically, was Mary Surratt guilty of helping plot the murder of Lincoln? Author Kate Clifford Larson is so convinced of Mary's complicity, she calls her Booth's accomplice. The evidence against her is circumstantial but compelling.

Even today, there is a reluctance to attribute guilt to Mary Surratt. She was widely viewed as loving, kind, and regular in church attendance. Weichmann testified to her exemplary character. Fellow inmate Virginia Lomax cited examples of her kindheartedness to others in prison. Even Mary's ex-slave, Rachel Semus (p. 187), testified Mrs. Suratt always treated her fairly and she thus never had reason to complain. [As a descendant of slaves, I certainly don't grant Mrs. Surratt a pass. Unfortunately however, even our most revered figures - Washington and Jefferson - engaged in this detestable commerce. Second, at a time when incivility and sometimes cruelty to slaves were not uncommon, Mary was utterly blameless. Compare with "kindly" Dr. Mudd who shot a slave for insubordination (Edward Steers, "His Name is Still Mudd"). Compare with Lewis Paine who was arrested after stomping a black maid for talking back.]

Mary Surratt's saintly image frustrates attempts to see her as complicit in Lincoln's demise. But, says author Larson, she lied when she denied knowing Paine. She lied when she denied knowing David Herold who had visited frequently at her tavern. And why the many visits by Booth to her H Street boarding house, the two sometimes disappearing for clandestine conversations lasting an hour and longer? Why could she not find that exculpatory letter from her son, purportedly received the very day detectives demanded it?

Why the April 11 hushed tones with Lloyd about having "shooting irons" ready soon?
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By G.I Gurdjieff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
Having read previously MANHUNT (and other books by James Swanson) and AMERICAN BRUTUS, I felt this book fell short a bit. Nonetheless, as the first book I've read primarily devoted to Mary Jenkins Surratt and her alledged participation in the Lincoln Assassination, I found this book flawed but compeling reading.
This book could easily be split into two parts.....before the assassination and after the assasination. Mrs. Surratt's participation up until the point of the assassination appears potentially damaging at the very least. Based on the testimony of people such as Louis Weichmann (her boarder), Mrs. Surratt appears to be complicite in a plot to kidnap Lincoln and hold him hostage. She offered her home to Booth and the conspirators over and over again as the initial plot was hatched. She took trips into Southern Maryland to convey information and secure supplies necessary to affect the kidnapping plot. She appeared to aid her son John on numerous occasions. John was a known confederate spy and operative. Mrs. Surratt herself was loyal to the cause of the south. The fact that she was involved at least on a superficial level in the plot to kidnap Lincoln was fairly obvious. However, things get a little fuzzy once the game plan evolved into an assassination plot. While evidence suggests she may have well been involved, it probably isn't as completely convincing because things evolved so quickly from a kidnapping plot to a assassination.
After the assassination, the conspirators were rounded up rather quickly. A speedy trial was held and within a matter of a couple months a verdict was handed down on the evidence that was presented. The veracity of the evidence has long been viewed as questionable as some information was withheld and testimony may have been altered.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Julia Sullivan on August 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a compellingly written book that brings together data from a wide variety of primary and secondary sources to paint a vivid, well-realized portrait of Mary Surratt.

That said, the other reviewers who have complained about historical, factual, and typographical errors have quite a bit of justification. I was disappointed by the sloppiness of the book.

But Kate Clifford Larson's prose style is engaging, and although not an authoritative text by any means, this was a fascinating read.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Talbot Doty on July 25, 2013
Format: MP3 CD
This is one of the worst books I have ever read to the end. Where other reviewers, more knowledgeable than I, cite historical error after error, my problem is primarily with the author's perspective. Although she refers to the defendants consistently as Mary's "co-conspirators" from the first moment of their respective arrests, she presents no proof that any conspiracy ever took place. There seem to have been several people involved in the aborted kidnap plot; but there is no evidence that the actual assassination was carried out by anyone but Booth, alone. Further, Larson bases her conclusions of Mary's guilt exclusively on circumstantial and hearsay evidence. While a corrupt military court, totally committed to vengeance, might convict on such testimony, it is hard to believe that at 21st Century writer could be persuaded by such flimsy stuff. Finally, who cares? Larson doesn't present a single sympathetic character in her entire account. I don't see how she could have come to the conclusions she did. I read the entire book--which is now useless because of my outraged marginal scribbles--just to see whether there could be some redeeming element. But if it was there, I failed to find it. (How this was awarded a "Best Reads" star demeans that whole program.)
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