Star-Spangled Scandal: A Novel
by Lori Swerda

"He said one thing only, 'I’ve killed him.'"

Powerful politicians, a jealous husband, and a scandalous affair lead to murder and a controversial trial of the century in this shocking story based on real-life events from 1859. This is the story of Philip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key, who was shot and killed by his lover’s husband, congressman Dan Sickles. The nation’s capital takes center stage in this fictional history, but politics takes a back seat to love and passion, adultery and madness, guilt and blame. Above all, the consequences for one’s actions and choices is a running theme through Swerda’s engaging story of real-life historical figures.

Swerda uses three narrators to bring this story to vibrant life. With authentic details and multiple perspectives, the murder of Key becomes a complex tale of a stifling time period for women, for romance, and for freedom. Despite the appearance of excessive propriety, not everyone adhered to the expectations of the time. The author captures that duality effectively through the voices of Key, his lover, and his family. The appearance of other notable real-life characters infuses a spark of curiosity, particularly regarding the role Abraham Lincoln and his wife may have played in the murder.

Betrayal and political interests eventually make their way into the story but never overshadow this story of relationships, the power of attraction, and the corrosiveness of jealousy. Swerda’s tightly compacted narrative gives us an intimate view inside the lives of these imperfect people who miscalculate the consequences for their actions in disastrous ways. The aftermath of shattered lives is brilliantly presented in this fictionalized account.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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