A Marked Man: An Abigail Adams Mystery

Written by Barbara Hamilton
Review by Liz Allenby

Second in a new series, A Marked Man begins at breakfast on a cold Sabbath morning in 1774 as Abigail Adams and her husband John note an article in the Boston Gazette: A Negro woman has run away, leaving behind a child of two and a baby of six months. Shortly thereafter, the couple receives news of the arrest of one of their own Sons of Liberty, Harry Knox, for the murder of Sir Jonathan Cottrell, the King’s Special Commissioner, sent from England to collect evidence about sources of funding going to “Rebels and Traitors.” At that morning’s church service, Abigail reflects upon the mark of the Beast in the Old Testament, the conviction that one’s own cause is sufficiently righteous to justify crimes against the innocent. The Provost Marshal finds in Harry Knox a likely suspect – Knox is responsible for printing and distributing seditious broadsides penned by the Sons of Liberty. Knox would be an easy suspect to convict, providing a quick closure to the case, and a cover-up for the true murderer.

Once again Barbara Hamilton fashions an intriguing, detailed novel using a historical figure as a sleuth who undergoes political risk as she takes on the arduous task of divining the identity of Cottrell’s true killer against the tense background of 1774 Boston. The setting is rich in period detail – everyday clothing, manners, and furniture are well-researched. The author unveils the true murderer only in the final pages, weaving a satisfying series of clues through the tale. A successful novel appealing to those who enjoy Revolutionary War historical mystery.