The lost colony of Roanoke is America's birthplace and one of America's oldest mysteries. What makes this book unique is that every clue furnished by primary documents is treated as evidence. It answers the three questions essential to solving the mystery: Why were the lost colonists lost? Where did the lost colonists go? Why were the lost colonists never recovered?
In addition, the author creates a whole different mystery (about powerful English nobles who set the colony up for failure) which may or may not be true but the real mystery is what happened to the colonists after they arrived on Roanoke Island. She does explain that (although I think not conclusively) but spends too much time on English politics that just isn't interesting to a non-specialist. Even in the explanation of what happened to the colony there is no reference to DNA, which would seem critical to solving the mystery of what happened to the colonists.
- The first 2/3 of the book was pretty dry, and it finally picked up at the end.
- The author used italics to when quoting various sources, mostly in the middle of sentences. That prevented her from being able to use italics for emphasis, and I found it to be very distracting.
- The author had the worst editor of all time, who allowed her to get away with fragmented sentences...throughout the entire book. Here is an example: "Walsingham is the Queen's Principal Secretary. Secretary of State. Master politician. Machiavellian." It drove me crazy!
-The author presented the story of Roanoke like it was a game of Clue, which trivialized the events and made it seem childish (the cover looks like it was going for a middle-school demographic).
So if you can get past those things, I would recommend this book!
And I am absolutely glad I did. Miller does some intense research to figure out what might have happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Looking at the political situation in England, the religious climate, the situation between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, the war with Spain, what went wrong while Ralph Lane was in charge of the fort at Roanoke, how that affected relations with the Native American nations in the vicinity, the personality of John White, Walter Raleigh, and every other person at court possibly involved in the colonization project that sent 117 individuals to their doom in Roanoke.
Miller explores the history as a thrilling mystery to be solved. What happened? How did it happen? Why would someone want the project to fail? Why would they deliberately allow those colonists to come to harm? Why were they stranded in Roanoke when they were supposed to continue on to Chesapeake Bay? Who had the motive and the means? Did people really wish that much damage to Raleigh’s character? Why?
Like I said, some in-depth research goes into this book, and it is definitely worth a read.