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Publishers WeeklyMary Surratt was a Washington, D.C. tavern operator who was hanged for her role in the Abraham Lincoln assassination conspiracy. At the time of her speedy military tribunal and swift execution, Surratt's predicament generated considerable public debate about Southern resistance, Northern vengeance, and gender. History buffs will be enlightened by Larson's findings about the scope and scale of Confederate covert activity in the waning days of the Civil Wars. Laural Merlington does not get the opportunity to sink her teeth into the complicated human drama until rather late in the proceedings. Her portrayal of the emotionally-charged interactions between Surratt and her fragile young-adult daughter demonstrates her range as a performer, but such interludes prove rather fleeting. Larson's narrative remains tied to documentation and court transcripts, so listeners hoping for a full-blown 19th Century soap opera will need to turn elsewhere. A Basic Books hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 7).
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