Title: Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony
Author: Lee Miller
Release Date: May 28, 2002
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the back cover:
In November of 1587, a report reached London claiming Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition to land English settlers in America had foundered. The colony on Roanoke Island off of the coast of North Carolina-115 men, women, and children-had disappeared without a trace. For four hundred years, the question of what became of the doomed settlers has remained unanswered. Where did they go? What really happened? Why were they on Roanoke Island in the first place, as that was not their destination? Using her consummate skills as an anthropologist and ethnohistorian, Lee Miller casts new light on the previously inexplicable puzzle of Roanoke, unraveling a thrilling web of deceit that can be traced back to the inner circle of Queen Elizabeth’s government to finally solve the lasting mystery of the Lost Colony.
I absolutely adore historical mysteries, though I never paid much attention to Roanoke. My mind was always stuck in ancient times, in puzzles that we could most likely never solve. I’m not actually sure how I came across this book on the lost colony of Roanoke, but when I saw it, I immediately knew I wanted to read it. I’ve been trying to show more of an interest in American history, and I figured that Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony was a great place to start!
Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony is impeccably researched. Miller obviously put a lot of time and effort into finding out the answer to this mystery. She used sources that most people haven’t really considered. The account is incredibly comprehensive and I was really impressed with how nuanced and complex her theory was. She must have done a tremendous amount of research for this book, and that really shines through.
One major irritant within Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony was Miller’s prose. Basically, she failed to write in complete sentences much of the time. Another reviewer pointed out that this might be for dramatic effect; whether that is the case or not, it can be frustrating. However, I found that I noticed it less when I was really engrossed in the book, especially in the second half.
Now the real question is, is Miller’s theory of what happened to the lost colonists of Roanoke compelling? On the whole, I’d say it is. Miller’s logic is very sound and she presents her arguments in a straightforward manner. There are no huge leaps of faith required; one thought leads very cleanly and precisely to the next. However, it should be noted that this book is based on assumptions; Miller proves one assumption to the best of her ability and moves on to the next and then to the next. That means that if one or two of these assumptions is actually incorrect, it could throw the entire theory off base.
That being said, I still think it’s a very convincing argument. Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony provides a thorough discussion of what happened to the lost colonists and why. Despite the writing issues, I really enjoyed reading this book. I was completely hooked from the very beginning and thought it was a completely engrossing read.