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Enterprising and ambitious, Lucretia Winslow Chapman had aspirations that exceeded those of many early-nineteenth-century women. An accomplished teacher, she founded at the age of twenty-nine one of Philadelphia's first boarding schools for girls. A year later, her school a success, she married a prominent local scientist, William Chapman, and with him had five children, all while helping her husband with his scientific endeavors and continuing to teach.
But Lucretia's energy (termed "masculine" at the time) would prove no match for Lino Espos y Mina, one of the most extraordinary con artists in American history. Lino appeared at the Chapman home one evening in 1831, asking for a room and introducing himself as the son of an important Mexican governor and the owner of vast silver and gold mines. Intrigued by the handsome Latino stranger, Lucretia agreed to take him in, and it wasn't long before they became lovers. Little more than a month after the affair began, Dr. Chapman was dead.
At first his death was attributed to natural causes. But once the relationship between the scientist's widow and the newcomer became known, the authorities began to suspect that Chapman had been poisoned. Soon both Lucretia and Lino were charged with murder. Their separate trials -- each featuring sex, scandal, deception, and the striking courtroom tactics of remarkable lawyers -- produced two very different outcomes and riveted the young American nation.
With exceptional skill, Wolfe braids trial transcripts, intimate love letters, and period recollections into a compelling historical thriller that reads with a surprisingly contemporary feel. "The Murder of Dr. Chapman: The Legendary Trials of Lucretia Chapman and Her Lover "is a captivating blend of history, mystery, and detection that culminates in a courtroom drama as timely as any in today's headlines.
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