Book ​Summary

A brutal killing, an all-out manhunt, and a riveting account of the first murder trial in U.S. history--set in the 1600s in colonial New England against the backdrop of the Pequot War (between the Pequot tribe and the colonists of Massachusetts Bay), an explosive trial whose outcome changed the course of history, ended a two-year war, and brought about a peace that allowed the colonies to become a full-blown nation.

The year: 1638. The setting: Providence, Plymouth Colony. A young Nipmuc tribesman, returning home from trading beaver pelts, is fatally stabbed in a robbery in the woods near Plymouth Colony, by a white runaway servant and fellow rogues. The young tribesman, fighting for his life, is able, with his final breaths, to reveal the details of the attack to Providence's governor, Roger Williams. A frantic manhunt by the fledgling government of Plymouth ensues, followed by the convening of the first trial, with Plymouth's governor Thomas Prence presiding as judge. The jury: local settlers (white) whose allegiance seems more likely to be with the accused than with the murdered (an American Indian) . . .

Tobey Pearl, piecing together a fascinating narrative through original research and first-rate detective work, re-creates in detail the full and startling, pivotal moment in pre-revolutionary America, as she examines the evolution of our nascent civil liberties and the role of the jury as a safeguard against injustice.



"History buffs will be riveted." 

Publishers Weekly

"Remarkably relevant to today’s struggle to ensure justice for all...engrossing."


"Terror to the Wicked is well written and draws upon important new insights into Native culture."

The New York Times Book Review

"Tobey Pearl clearly shows New England’s Native context."

The Wall Street Journal

"The best single narrative available about an important and often--ignored episode in Plymouth's—and America's—early history."

—The Mayflower Quarterly Magazine

"A solid bookend to Jill Lepore’s The Name of War."


"Detail--rich and erudite" ("Titles to Watch" 2021 selection)

Library Journal 

“A gripping tale of justice served, written with brio and precision.”

—Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller, The Peabody Sisters, and Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast

“One of the best portraits of life in the early Colonies and the interactions of settler and natives. An important tale; well told.”
—Melvin Urofsky
“A gripping and often surprising story of early American life and death, beautifully told.”
—Megan Kate Nelson, author of The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West

“An impressive example of literary detection, striking for its immediacy and accessibility. A bravura debut performance.”
—Nicholas Basbanes, author of Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Tobey Pearl brings this crucial tale to life with sharp storytelling, brilliant research, and a vibrant imagination.”
—Kevin Birmingham, author of The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses


Book Clubs

The History Book Club---Main Selection 

The Military Book Club

Library of Science Book Club

Junior Library Guild---Adult Crossover Nonfiction



Tobey Pearl earned degrees in law and international relations from Boston University and studied international law at the University of Hong Kong during the SARS-CoV-1 epidemic. She is the 2021 recipient of the Jennie F. McLauthlen Award for Lifelong Learning. Tobey lives with her husband, the author Matthew Pearl, three children, and rescue dog. Terror to the Wicked is her first book.


Virtual Events

March 3, 2021

9:00 am – First Draft / Aspen Public Radio interview with Mitzi Rapkin

March 16, 2021

7:00 pm -- Porter Square Books with author Larry Kerpelman

March 18, 2021

6:00 pm -- Northshire Books Saratoga Springs with Matthew Pearl

March 29, 2021

3:00 pm --- Radio Boston on WBUR with Tiziana Dearing 

March 31, 2021

 8:10 am --- The South Shore’s Morning News

April 1, 2021

Recipient --- the Jennie F. McLauthlen Award for Lifelong Learning. Presented by the Kingston Public Library and the Kingston Council on Aging in Kingston, Massachusetts.

April 2, 2021

7:00 pm -- Print Bookstore in partnership with Mechanics' Hall, Portland, ME (in conversation with Matthew Pearl)

April 13, 2021

6:00 pm -- New England Historical and Genealogy Society event cosponsored with the Boston Public Library

July 1, 2021

2:00 pm -- Inquiry on WICN NPR

July 20, 2021

7:00 pm -- Falmouth (MA) Historical Society and the Museums on the Green

July 28, 2021

7:00 pm -- Friends of Pine Hawk, Acton, MA

September 16, 2021

5:30 pm -- Historic New England


Short Nonfiction

On The Water Magazine, August 2020

"Twice Bitten: The Hidden History of Sharks in Massachusetts"



Book clubs welcome

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