A True Crime Story that may or may not be satisfying.


In April 1913, Mary Phagan (13) was on her way to the Confederate Memorial Day parade in Atlanta, Georgia. She never made it. She was brutally murdered, found in the basement of the National Pencil Company, where she worked. She had been raped and beaten. Her death shocked the Atlanta community and prompted a major criminal investigation. The investigators first blamed a black man but then turned to Leo Frank, a northern industrialist who was the NPC's superintendent. But he became the number one suspect because he was a Jew. This book gives us all the details on the notorious case, from before Phagan’s unfortunate death on Confederate Memorial Day, through the investigation and highly anticipated trial three months later, to Frank's public lynching and the aftermath.  

BTSYA / Teen Reader (18):
An  Unspeakable Crime is certainly an interesting read. In the first chapter or two, I was already invested in discovering who murdered Mary Phagan and whether Leo Frank was the true perpetrator. The remainder of the book did not disappoint in satisfying my curiosity. I think that like myself, other readers will form their own opinion on the case. They may be upset by or pleased with the outcome, but everyone will be intrigued from start to finish.

If you are a fan of more imaginative books or fiction, this book may not be for you. However, if you are interested in crime and/or true stories, you will find this non-fiction book enjoyable. You will especially enjoy it if you prefer shorter reads. Be aware that you will be reading heavy, unpleasant facts.

Throughout the book, you observe that Leo Frank’s case was largely influenced by prejudice against him. This created what many would call an unfair trial for Frank and made him a victim of injustice. From this, it is essential to take away the damage that prejudice can cause to one another, and likewise with racism and discrimination. This book should dissuade its readers from these evils, and remind them to be fair, honest, and open-minded.

Borrow the book! It is more of a one-time read. I recommend this book to those ages 16 and up.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

This is a must-read for readers who are curious about history, true crime, and/or who love to ask "how did I not know about this?"

Content Awareness Factors:

The story includes prejudice against Jews and northerners, including derogatory comments. The crime is that Mary is raped and beaten to death, and violence is central to the events.

Type of Book:
This is a nonfiction book about the murder of a 13-year-old girl in Atlanta, GA, in 1913.
Educational Themes:

This book is based on an actual crime, and it is important to note that it reflects the author's interpretation of the events and Mr. Frank. There are some documents from the case in the book, but many more can be found at the Leo Frank Case Archive (link to website). This is an important resource! Not only will it help add context and more detail about the case, but it shows readers how information can be manipulated or omitted, and help them understand why it is important to dig deeper and not assume that what someone says is 100% true.


Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
15 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
14 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer's Age: 18
Purchase Recommendation:
Borrow if you like true crime stories. Otherwise, skip.

Title An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank
Author Elaine Marie Alphin
Publisher Carolrhoda Books, Imprint Lerner Publishing Group © 2010
ISBN 9780822589440
Material Hard Cover
Cost $15.90
Genres Mystery, History, True Crime
be the star you are Cybils
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