Mr. Tresniowski shows us through brisk and cinematic writing the horror confronted by Marie’s parents ... I admit that, at this point, I wondered how Mr. Tresniowski would conjoin the stories of Williams and Wells, which occurred several decades apart. Was it a bit of a literary feint? A marketing nod to the issues of race and policing currently wracking our country? And yet the stories are so vividly told, so filled with velocity, I thought: Who cares? We’re watching heroes and villains change history; let’s see how they do it ... That the “link” between Wells and Schindler is slight—a small donation from the NAACP to Williams’s defense fund—turns out not to matter. Each makes the other’s dedication shine more brightly. And while Mr. Tresniowski notes that up to now Wells and Schindler 'are not linked in any textbooks, or in any telling of the crime and its aftermath,' with the publication of The Rope they are. I think they would have appreciated each other.
Author Alex Tresniowski weaves together the stories of two people who never met but who would have a tremendous impact on Williams: Ida B. Wells, an African American journalist, and Raymond Schindler, probably the most famous private detective in 20th-century America. Tresniowski traces how Wells was impelled by the brutal murder of a dear friend to evolve from a reporter into an anti-lynching activist of extraordinary courage, determination and effectiveness. Her work eventually results in the NAACP’s intervention in Williams’ case. Schindler’s involvement in the Williams case is more direct, as he is hired to find the true killer. Rejecting the racist assumptions of the Asbury Park police, Schindler relentlessly employs psychological insight and intellect to solve the crime. Wells and Schindler are utterly dissimilar people except that they shared a firm belief in the value of every human—and the courage to act on that belief ... full of rich historical detail, forensic insight and, most especially, a keen understanding of human motivations. It is also a timely reminder that justice is best served when it is compassionate and unbiased.
Anyone interested in Wells’s evolution from obscure schoolteacher to civil rights icon and co-founder of the NAACP will find The Rope compelling and inspirational. They may find it plenty upsetting, too, as Tresniowski documents harrowing incidents of mob law, including one that took the life of Wells’s close friend. The book’s driving force, however, the thing that accelerates the page-turning, is the mystery surrounding the sexual assault and murder of a 10-year-old girl in Asbury Park, N.J., in 1910 ... outstanding, meticulously researched.