Lewis & Clark: Murder on the Natchez Trace
The death of Meriwether Lewis (of the famed Lewis & Clark expedition) in 1809 has been a bone of historical contention since the morning after it happened, with one side claiming Lewis, who’d been acting strangely the previous evening, shot himself and another side saying he was murdered. Regardless of who’s ultimately right, the incident is an obvious invitation to storytellers, and author Thomas Berry has used it as the fulcrum of his crackerjack novel Murder on the Natchez Trace.
In the book, Lewis’ former partner in the famed “Corps of Discovery,” William Clark, doesn’t believe his old colleague committed suicide, and he assembles a small group of former expedition members to hunt down clues to what really happened that night. What unfolds is a well-researched and very entertainingly told saga leading readers right through the War of 1812 and finally springing on them an old-fashioned fantastic ending.
Berry’s skill at interweaving several parallel plots is at times dazzling, and his shifts from character dialogue to general narration and back are deftly done. The novel’s most accomplished set-pieces are the numerous scenes set during the Lewis & Clark expedition itself, which is here brought to life as few histories have managed to do. Highly recommended.