Skull in the Ashes: Murder, a Gold Rush Manhunt, and The Birth of Circumstantial Evidence In America

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Date: Fall 2015
From: The Historian(Vol. 77, Issue 3)
Publisher: Phi Alpha Theta, History Honor Society, Inc.
Document Type: Book review
Length: 575 words
Lexile Measure: 1110L

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Skull in the Ashes: Murder, a Gold Rush Manhunt, and The Birth of Circumstantial Evidence In America. By Peter Kaufman. (Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 2013. Pp. 283. $19.95.)

A Walford, Iowa, dry goods store caught fire in the early morning of February 3, 1897, touching off enough drama for several novels. This study of circumstantial evidence involves a homicide, a manhunt ranging from Walford to Dawson City, Yukon, a murder trial, and a convict's fourteen years in Iowa prisons. This robust historical whodunit benefits from solid research on late nineteenth-century law enforcement, the growing acceptance of private detectives, and a grim state prison system and early efforts at prison reform.

The fire consumed the store co-owned by Frank Alfred Novak and caused the building's rubble to collapse into its basement. Novak often slept in the store basement because of earlier...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A431081452