skull-in-the-ashes-peter-kaufmanIn the early morning hours of February 3, 1897, Frank Novak’s dry goods store—in the small Iowa town of Walford—went up in flames.

The townspeople assumed the charred remains found the next day were Novak’s, but evidence suggests otherwise. Peter Kaufman’s Skull in the Ashes: Murder, a Gold Rush Manhunt and the Birth of Circumstantial Evidence in America is a lucid and meticulously researched account of this remarkable case. The mystery reads like a lively adventure yarn, as detective J.J. “Red” Perrin tracks the fugitive Novak for thousands of miles up through the wildest reaches of Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

While the Novak case made for lurid headlines, it also heralded the early use of photography, forensics and other investigative techniques that have quickly become the standard procedure in crime investigation today. Skull in the Ashes is a gripping, absorbing read.

—Patrick Millikan, editor of Phoenix Noir

Related Articles

  • beauty_for_ashes_win_blevins_fiction_mountain_men

    Far from his native Pennsylvania, teenage Sam Morgan grows up in a hurry amongst the…

  • westsern-events-september-2013

    Western roundup of events where you can experience the Old West. ANIMAL ADOPTIONS Wild Horse…

  • frontier-calvary-trooper-douglas-mcchristian

    Frontier Cavalry Trooper: The Letters of Private Eddie Matthews, 1869-1874, edited by Douglas C. McChristian,…