This suspenseful account solves a longtime New England murder mystery: the shotgun killing of Elliott Speer, the charismatic young headmaster of the Mount Hermon School for Boys in Northfield, Massachusetts.
Elliott Speer had begun to initiate long overdue progressive reforms at the strict, tradition-bound Christian prep school, winning the affection of many students and faculty. But on the evening of September 14, 1934, the thirty-five-year-old administrator was abruptly killed by a shotgun blast through his study window. The murder made front-page news across the country, yet no one was ever charged with the crime.
This investigation by a veteran attorney and Mount Hermon alumnus is the first to explore the life of Elliott Speer and recount the events that led to his death. Drawing on newspaper archives, a transcript, once thought lost, of a secret inquest, and interviews with surviving relatives and students at the time, Craig Walley takes a new look at the unsolved killing and the failure to name and try a suspect. Among the clues turned up in the investigation are a forged note on the headmaster's letterhead, a mystery novel in Speer's library that described the nearly identical murder of an English headmaster, and a resentful Dean, passed over for promotion and angered by liberal educational reforms. Propounding the idea that Speer's break with the school's history of extreme Christian conservatism, which belatedly brought Mount Hermon in line with modern theories of education, had infuriated some members of the community, Walley's absorbing probe of the case dares to point the finger at the likely killer, something law enforcement was unable or unwilling to do publicly after that fateful night.
Complete with a biography of Elliott Speer and a history of Mount Hermon from its founding by a noted evangelist to the time of the shooting, Walley builds a compelling social picture of the scene of a notorious crime and resolves a longtime New England mystery to coincide with the seventieth anniversary of the murder.