It was a bold and brutal crime–robbery and murder in broad daylight on the streets of South Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1920. Tried for the crime and convicted, two Italian-born laborers, anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, went to the electric chair in 1927, professing their innocence. Journalist Susan Tejada has spent years investigating the case, sifting through diaries and police reports and interviewing descendants of major figures. She discovers little-known facts about Sacco, Vanzetti, and their supporters, and develops a tantalizing theory about how a doomed insider may have been coerced into helping professional criminals plan the heist.
Tejada’s close-up view of the case allows readers to see those involved as individual personalities. She also paints a fascinating portrait of a bygone era: Providence gangsters and Boston Brahmins; nighttime raids and midnight bombings; and immigration, unionism, draft dodging, and violent anarchism in the turbulent early years of the twentieth century. In many ways this is as much a cultural history as a true-crime mystery or courtroom drama. Because the case played out against a background of domestic terrorism, in a time that echoes our own, we have a new appreciation of the potential connection between fear and the erosion of civil liberties and miscarriages of justice.