The Death of Meriwether Lewis: A Historic Crime Scene Investigation. Starrs, James E. (author) and Kira Gale (author). Apr. 2009. 336p. illus. River Junction, paperback, $16.95 (9780964931541). 973.4. REVIEW. First published March 16, 2009 (Booklist Online).
Conspiracy theorizing is the populist historiographical method this inspection of the demise of explorer Meriwether Lewis exemplifies. Occasioned by the bicentenary of Lewis’ death, it is propelled by its authors’ expectation that the federal government, which controls Lewis’ burial site, will soon approve the exhumation that those convinced that Lewis was murdered have long been sought. Starrs noted a previous federal rejection of disinterment in his A Voice for the Dead (2005), an account of his investigations into historical homicides, including that of Jesse James. Pending the results of the unshoveling of Lewis, Starrs and Gale’s readers can revel in the success achieved by conspiracy advocates reported—indeed, reprinted seemingly verbatim—here, the proceedings of a 1996 Tennessee inquest. Starrs and Gale’s capacious, document-driven argument that Lewis was not a suicide isn’t the most editorially polished of books, but should Lewis’ bones make headlines, if and when they speak forensically from the grave, grassroots enthusiasm for it may take flight.— Gilbert Taylor
New books recommendation suggestion for criminal justice students: if you like to read historic fiction literature, this book is for you!