Murder, mystery, history, and treasure—what more more could a reader ask for? This ghostly Boston history mystery reminded me of the movie National Treasure or of book I read a couple of years ago called The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz (“In loosely connected chapters, Gratz examines how one Brooklyn family is affected by the game of baseball.”)
In 13 Hangmen, Mr. Corriveau examines how six 13 year old boys influence the course of Boston’s history in connection with one townhouse and extending all the way back to the American Revolution. And it’s exciting, like National Treasure. Tony DiMarco, the hero of our story is an overweight 13 year old with a Buddhist, vegetarian dad, a worried-about-finances mom, and twin older brothers who treat him like the younger brother that he is. Tony also has a great-uncle named Zio Angelo who dies and leaves leaves Tony a dilapidated townhouse in Boston’s historic North End, 13 Hangmen Court. When Tony finds a pawcorance in his attic bedroom, he is able to “conjure” a meeting with other thirteen year old boys who lived and slept in the same room in the past.
“They have certaine altar stones, they call Pawcorances, but these stand from their temples, some by their houses, others in the woods and wildernesses, where they have had any extraordinary accident or encounter. As you travel by theam they will tell you the cause of their erection, wherein they instruct their children; so that they are in stead of records and memorialls of their antiquities. Upon this they offer Bloud, Dear Suet, and Tobacco. There they doe when they returne from warres, from hunting, and upon many other occasions.” ~Captain John Smith
Only Tony’s pawcorance is a shelf, not a pile of stones. At any rate, Tony finds out that the next-door neighbors have been trying to buy, confiscate or steal the house at 13 Hangmen Court for the last 200 years at least, although the reason for their interest is unclear. As Tony and the boys from the past continue to delve into the mystery, going further and further back into the past, they find out that you really can’t change history. It’s kind of like time travel, except no one really leaves his own time. Yeah, it’s complicated, like time travel, and there are rules.
13 Hangmen is a great story for kids who are interested in mysteries, history, especially the history of Boston, and treasure hunts. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and I learned a lot about some famous Bostonians, including baseball great Ted Williams, poitician John F. “Honey” Fitzgerald, William Lloyd Garrison, and of course, one of the most famous Bostonians of all, Paul Revere. The book has a helpful section at the end telling “what’s story, what’s history,” something I always want to know after reading a good historical fiction book.