Robert Lee Hall
240 pages, $14.95 paper
Within a secret compartment of an old secretary once owned by his great aunt, Robert Lee Hall made a startling discovery more than 10 years ago. He found a yellowing manuscript describing a series of mysterious criminal cases. What made these stories so unusual was that they were solved by renowned scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin while he lived in London, pleading the American colonies case before the British crown.
Halls ancestor, Nick Handy, who happened to be Franklins assistant throughout these adventures, wrote the tales, and Hall transcribed them and presented them in the order of their occurrence.
The result is the Benjamin Franklin mystery series, now published by the University Press in its new Pine Street Books imprint.
In Benjamin Franklin Takes the Case, the first novel in the series, the great Ben Franklin meets the young orphan Nick Handy in the print shop of an old friend. When the old friend is suddenly murdered, it is up to Franklin and Nick to prove who was responsible for the grisly deed. Turning detective, Franklin pursues the strange case along the dark byways of London and into its grand houses, uncovering a theft ring, a profitable trade in slaves and prostitutes, and strong reasons to believe that Nick is in grave danger. Employing his keen sense of scientific observation and his inventors creative mind, the doctor is able to solve a case that the constables had thought would be impossible to break.
Library Journal commented, Hall portrays the flavor and atmosphere of 18th-century London with artful and consistent mastery, and called the book a totally involving work. Look for other volumes in the series to follow.
University of Pennsylvania Press
Originally published on September 27, 2001