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November 8, 2012

Review: A Case for Solomon

A Case for Solomon: Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping that Haunted a Nation
 A Case for Solomon: Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping That Haunted a Nation by Tal McThenia and Margaret Dunbar Cutright is the compelling true story of 4 year old Bobby Dunbar, who goes missing in Louisiana in 1912.

An 8 month search begins but no trace of Bobby is found until a young boy matching Bobby's description turns up in Mississippi accompanied by a wandering tinker named William Walters. The Dunbars are at first hesitant about identifying the boy as their son and certain physical characteristics don't match, but eventually they agree the boy is Bobby.

Then an umarried woman named Julia Anderson steps forward and claims the boy is her son Bruce. Even though the boy does not seem to recognize the Dunbars or their younger son, the Dunbars insist he is their son Bobby Dunbar and Walters is arrested and tried for kidnapping.

The newspapers of the time have a field day and print lies, half-truths and exaggerated accounts, leading the nation to a frenzy. Walters is found guilty although he is later released in 1915.

The book is a captivating account, well-told by the authors, whose writing style engages you and draws you in to this tragic tale.  Margaret Cutright is a descendant of the found boy taken in by the Dunbars as their son and her research into newspaper accounts, family letters and stories as well as other historical documents is meticulous. Any genealogist will enjoy reading this story which combines a riveting mystery plot with awe-inspiring research.

The two families argue in courts and in the newspapers over who is the mother of the boy - Lessie Dunbar or Julia Anderson but it takes almost 100 years before the truth is finally discovered through DNA testing.

Bobby Dunbar died in 1966 and in the last chapter the authors follow the lives of the Dunbars and Andersons from the 1920s  to 2004. This is a compelling story of hope, denial, the power of unsavoury journalism and a young boy's uncertain heritage.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


Andrea said...

I first heard about the Bobby Dunbar story on "This American Life" a few years ago. Fascinating story and research. Can't wait to read the book. Here's a link to the broadcast

Patti said...

Thanks for this review. Sounds like a very interesting read. While I occasionally read novels, I far prefer non-fiction, and I am always on the prowl for something new.