Sharyn McCrumb's “The Ballad of Frankie Silver” (St. Martin's Griffin Trade Paperback, $15.99) was a best-selling novel in 2011. Considered one of the classics of her Ballad Novel series, it is now out in paperback.
Silver, 18, was convicted of murder in 1833 in Burke County, N.C. She allegedly hit her husband in the head with an ax, dismembered him and tried to burn his body in the fireplace. She was found guilty and sentenced to die. But the sheriff and most townspeople believed she was innocent.
Present-day east Tennessee sheriff Spencer Arrowood is obsessed with the Silver case. He has been invited to witness the execution of Fate Harkryder, whom he arrested and testified against in a case 20 years ago At the time, he was sure Harkryder was guilty. But he remembers that Sheriff Nelse Miller used to say two murder cases made him wonder about justice: Frankie Silver and Fate Harkryder. Arrowood is determined to find the truth about both murders.
The author's research conveys the mindset of the Tennessee hill people in the 1800s. Silver and Harkryder were poor Appalachian hill folk, which ultimately determined how their lives would end.
— Betty Lytle