Simon Schama, the author of The Embarrassment of Riches and Citizens, sets out to tell the history of two certainties, of two deaths. In discussing the speculations surrounding them, he finds himself involved in a history he cannot classify - the unpredictable history of stories.
The result is a very readable set of stories, the first dealing with the death of the British General Wolfe on the Heights of Abraham during the successful defeat of the French army; the second relating the murder of a medical-doctor-cum-landlord by a Harvard chemistry professor in the 1840s. The tales are linked by the Parkman family—George Parkman is the murder victim in the latter portion of the book; his nephew, Francis Parkman, was a famous historian responsible for excellent work on the French and Indian War.
"The 'Conclusion' that every doctoral adviser urges on his students as a professional obligation has always seemed to my notoriously inconclusive temperament to be so much wishful thinking." p. 321