Terror to the Wicked by Tobey Pearl

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Terror to the Wicked:

Seems like everyone wanted to kill each other all the time in early America.

Quick synopsis:

The story of the first jury trial in the American colonies.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

Rockabye baby is actually based on an American Indian song.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

It took two years before Harvard got its name. It’s the name of the guy who left some money to it. Yeah, the colonists were never big on creativity.

My Take on Terror to the Wicked:

This book could have been much shorter.

There are certain stories which probably only need a short Wikipedia article about them. Now and again, an author sees a way to turn a short story into something worth writing a book about it. Tobey Pearl somehow did this with the first jury trial in America.

Here’s what happened. Four indentured servants decide they don’t like the “indentured” or “servant” part of their job titles. They make a run for it. Unfortunately, they didn’t have what anyone would consider a plan. While stuck in the middle of nowhere, they decide to kill an innocent American Indian to get some food and/or money.

A chase ensues. They get caught (obviously, or the jury trial would be stupid). The trial happens. As you can see, there doesn’t seem to be a book’s worth of material here. You would be wrong.

Pearl puts all of these events in context. The constant state of near war between the American Indians and the colonists. The infighting between the different colonies and even the divides within each colony. The outcome of the trial was far from a sure thing. Pearl fleshes this all out and makes this much more thrilling then it had any right to be.


A great read, especially if you are an early American history nerd (like me!). Buy it here!

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