A True Story of Murder, Heroism, and the Dawn of the NAACP
From New York Times bestselling author Alex Tresniowski comes a “compelling” (The Guardian) and “riveting” (The New York Times Book Review) true-crime thriller recounting the 1910 murder of ten-year-old Marie Smith, the dawn of modern criminal detection, and the launch of the NAACP.
In the tranquil seaside town of Asbury Park, New Jersey, ten-year-old schoolgirl Marie Smith is brutally murdered. Small town officials, unable to find the culprit, call upon the young manager of a New York detective agency for help. It is the detective’s first murder case, and now, the specifics of the investigation and daring sting operation that caught the killer is captured in all its rich detail for the first time.
Occurring exactly halfway between the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the formal beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in 1954, the brutal murder and its highly-covered investigation sits at the historic intersection of sweeping national forces—religious extremism, class struggle, the infancy of criminal forensics, and America’s Jim Crow racial violence.
History and true crime collide in this “compelling and timely” (Vanity Fair) murder mystery featuring characters as complex and colorful as those found in the best psychological thrillers—the unconventional truth-seeking detective Ray Schindler; the sinister pedophile Frank Heidemann; the ambitious Asbury Park Sheriff Clarence Hetrick; the mysterious “sting artist,” Carl Neumeister; the indomitable crusader Ida Wells; and the victim, Marie Smith, who represented all the innocent and vulnerable children living in turn-of-the-century America.
“Brisk and cinematic” (The Wall Street Journal), The Rope is an important piece of history that gives a voice to the voiceless and resurrects a long-forgotten true crime story that speaks to the very divisions tearing at the nation’s fabric today.
In this vivid history, journalist Tresniowski (coauthor, The Foundling) intertwines the story of journalist Ida B. Wells's anti-lynching crusade with the case of a Black man wrongfully accused of murder in 1910. Between 1882 and 1968, Tresniowski notes, nearly 3,500 African Americans were lynched in the U.S. In speeches, articles, and a book, Wells documented the killings and pushed for a federal anti-lynching law. After a white mob destroyed her newspaper's offices in Memphis, Tenn., in 1892, Wells moved to New York and then Illinois, where she stopped a white sheriff from getting his job back after he failed to prevent the lynching of a Black prisoner. Wells also helped to create the NAACP, whose lawyers worked to free innocent Black men, including Tom Williams, who was accused of murdering 10-year-old Marie Smith in Asbury Park, N.J. Tresniowksi paints a colorful portrait of private detective Raymond Schindler, who was hired by the Asbury Park police and a local businessman to investigate the murder, and skillfully builds momentum as Schindler attempts to elicit a confession from his prime suspect before Williams stands trial. This thrilling true crime story documents a critical chapter in the crusade against racial violence in America.